tablets (US Army photo)

COMMENTARY

Best practices for rugged tablets in the military

The durability of rugged tablets is beyond contention -- these devices can endure falls of several feet, water exposure and glaring sunlight while delivering computing consistency in even harsh military settings. But the greater value of their deployment in the armed forces is their influence in realizing organizational objectives at the tactical, strategic and operational levels where they enable a wide range of real-time intelligence.

Because rugged tablets can be deployed and used in severe settings, they are rapidly becoming an indispensable tool for any number of military functions-- and can provide these same advantages for almost any organization with field deployments.

Tactical

In military terms, tactics are the specific means of achieving a particular objective for on-location deployments. Rugged tablets contain multiple features that make them ideal for the precise directives and situational awareness needed in the field. Native Wi-Fi capabilities enable users to maximize 4G and 5G communication wherever there’s an internet connection.

Additional technologies such as radio frequency identification  and long-range Bluetooth are also available so users can quickly receive necessary information. An array of security measures fortify communication to field operatives, including identification tools like common access card readers, LANs supported by encryption, VPNs and IPsecs. The principal tactical benefit of rugged tablets is the secure reception of data from field operatives, who in turn transmit data to centralized locations to influence strategic approaches.

Strategic

Strategy is the long-term plan for organizational success that is frequently informed by integrating numerous data points in the field from the tactical level. Rugged tablets engender strategic benefits by transferring real-time field intelligence to central locations for integration, aggregation and analysis. Although many of the same tactical advantages are useful for these strategic deployments, others are aided by these devices’ data capture capacity. Barcode scanners, smartcard readers and cameras rapidly ingest data to disseminate for strategic purposes, while near-field communication and other technologies can convey these results and others.

Rugged tablets are instrumental in evaluating strategic concerns, such as whether or not the right intelligence is being gathered. They also help better manage resources to achieve goals, because tablets enable back-office officials to holistically review -- and derive insights from -- data gleaned in external environments. For instance, officials may analyze reports from various field operatives that collectively reveal the plans of persons of interest, such as terrorists. Identifying patterns from field data transmitted from rugged tablets is one of their key strategic benefits.

Operational

In most military settings, operational needs correlate to the proper deployment of resources for fulfilling tasks. The intelligence obtained from the tactical level and deconstructed for strategic purposes is acted upon at the operational level. Examples might include mobilizing specific types and amounts of personnel necessary to neutralize a particular situation or prevent undesired events from occurring.

Other operational concerns center on evaluating events affecting multiple units (such as different military fortifications in a certain territory) to determine relationships among them that may affect those units as a whole. Doing so may indicate how best to apportion resources to further strategic objectives or to influence which tactics are used.

In each of these use cases, both the receipt and transmission of low-latency data is necessary for optimal advantage. In this respect, rugged tablets are communication tools supporting  the strategic and tactical fronts. Remote communication is vital to operations in general; rugged tablets facilitate real-time data exchanges in a range of extreme environments in which the military operates.

Intelligent transmission

The ability of rugged tablets to function in extreme settings is critical to their use in the military. However, these tools also enable the secure, real-time communication that’s imperative for success at the tactical, strategic and operational levels. Each of these levels impacts the others, which simply redoubles the value rugged tablets produce for realizing the military’s organizational objectives. By consistently transmitting data from the field to centralized locations, then back again to individual operational units as needed, they’re an invaluable decision-making tool for facilitating action. 

About the Author

Daw Tsai is president of DT Research.

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