Weird tech: Clearing the fog of war with text messaging

Ally identification, tracking, and coordinating system taps mobile IT to help prevent friendly fire deaths

Regardless of one's stance on armed conflict, the death of servicemen by friendly fire is a troubling eventuality of war that stirs a very high level of discomfort in all. In the confusion of battle, the risk of being wounded or killed by comrades-in-arms is by no means trivial, and while the Pentagon states that the rate of deaths by friendly fire has diminished in recent conflicts, it still occurs in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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This risk is compounded when coalition forces include multiple services or troops from multiple countries, as the coordination of maneuvers and means of identification becomes that much more complex.

The Friendly Force Tracking application currently being sold to the Department of Defense by WinMagic and Comtech Mobile Data applies a large number of emergent technologies, including text messaging, to decrease the likelihood of friendly fire deaths by helping allies keep informed of plans and positions in near real time. 

The Friendly Force Tracking system deploys mobile battlefield terminals that use WinMagic's latest password and PKI encryption methods in its SecureDoc full-disk encryption software to limit access to only authenticated users. It also applies Comtech Mobile Data's collaborative GPS-based GeoOps software to integrate mission planning, dispatching, and movement monitoring.

Moreover, the system integrates text messaging to facilitate the identification of friendly forces.

As with any machine-based military application, text messaging as a means for ally identification can only be as effective as soldiers can manage under duress. But if there is one war issue this country can reach consensus about, it is certain to be that reducing friendly fire deaths is a worthwhile objective.

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