As smartphones get more versatile by the day, they're getting attention from unexpected places. Case in point: a defense contractor is working with Google to develop a device for soldiers that would display real-time battlefield intel — powered by Android.
The same guys who brought you yesterday's airplane-destroying laser, Raytheon, sought to create a compact gadget that would relay battlefield images from satellites and aircraft to soldiers on the ground, and allow them to easily zoom in on details like license plates or faces. Since smartphones already do things like that, it makes sense they hooked up with Google, who offered up its Android tech for the job.
The device would cost only about $500. Besides relaying intelligence, it would also let soldiers keep track of their comrades' movements on the battlefield as well as — and I couldn't make this up — "identify potential enemies in a way similar to social networking sites such as Facebook." I can see it now: "Dude, that Pashtun villager just de-friended me — shoot him!"
Am I alone in thinking that having soldiers treat battlefields like they're venues on Foursquare is probably a bad idea? Raytheon says the device would disable itself if it fell into the hands of an enemy, but what about hacking? Besides, social networks almost always result in a certain amount of "oversharing," and in a military situation that kind of thing could be disastrous.
In that case, the name of this new device, the Raytheon Android Tactical System, would take on some tragic irony, since the acronym is RATS.