The mobile phone of choice for US officials appears to be Google Android phones, according to a recent report in CNN.
The phones that will be dispersed to numerous federal agencies as well as government contractors. The smartphones are first being deployed for use by U.S. soldiers.
Later on, some federal agencies are expected to receive the phones in order for secure sending and receiving of government cables while away from their offices.
The iMedicalApps team has previously reported on tablet devices being used by deployed medics in the field. We noted that deployable staff including medics, nurses and commanders use software to document and track patient care, digitally manage and inventory medical supplies and monitor health in the combat zone. This is the first time, though, that we have seen credible information that has picked one mobile platform over another for use by the federal government.
The government chose to work on the Android platform first because Google already allows people to mess freely with its base code. Angelos Stavrou, an information-security director at George Mason University who is working on the project noted that federal officials did meet with Apple, but were told they couldn’t have access to the core iOS code. Stavrou explains,
“Android was more cooperative in supporting some of the capabilities that we wanted to support in the operating system, whereas Apple was more averse. They’re shifting the strategy now.”
Since the federal government has a strong emphasis on security, it is having its own developers modify the core Android OS in order to control what data is sent over the internet from the operating system as well as from apps running on the phones. The amount of data that is sent over the internet by a typical user is more then the federal government would likely allow for their personnel. The reason is that this data can be tracked or hacked by people that would seek to harm the government and thus the OS would be a security risk if left unsecured. Stavrou concurs,
“The government is actually working pretty hard in getting this technology to most agencies. Security is everybody’s concern.”
Interestingly, as more and more companies, agencies and people begin to adopt Android smartphones, there may be a shift in which OS developers make apps for initially. This includes medical apps. While the iTunes store has a plethora of medical apps, some of which cannot be found on an Android device, this preference could easily shift if there becomes a critical mass of people who would seek out medical applications designed specifically for the Android platform.
An additional challenge the government developers have to overcome is how to encrypt voice calls. This project is being funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the group responsible for early development of GPS and even the Internet. They are housed under the umbrella of the Defense Department and are working with the National Security Agency (NSA). An NSA spokeswoman describes the goal of the project.
“The ultimate goal is to give war fighters, analysts and other intelligence professionals access to classified information on the go — boosting innovation in the field, efficiency and productivity.”