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Defense

Smartphone to tactical radio hubs enhance situational awareness

Service members are now connected to more voice and data communications systems than ever, giving them terrific independence and situational awareness. For a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) like myself in the field, it makes the job easier. There’s simply more — and better — information available.

A communication hub in your pocket

When it comes to the tactical communications and situational awareness systems used during missions, it’s critical that the operators aren’t dependent on each individual manufacturer to work together. Typically, a radio or other piece of equipment has an Ethernet connection plugged into the single port on a laptop. If another piece of equipment needs that same port, operators have to choose between them — or carry two computers to run multiple applications, such as video and downloading situational awareness data.

That’s why Black Diamond Advanced Technology developed our hub solutions: to enable operators to connect and power all of these systems with less weight and more convenient access to end-user devices (EUDs) and radio systems. Having seen the proven benefits of tools such as Android Team Awareness Kit (ATAK) and the overall Android smartphone experience, we expanded from tying together multiple radio systems to developing smart hubs and power management.

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There’s a huge advantage in providing greater situational awareness with lightweight tools, smartphones in particular. Operators fell in love with the form factor; previously, the smallest tool available was a 7-inch tablet. And phones bring the cost down, so a unit can afford more of them.

With current, accurate maps in your pocket, printed maps become unnecessary. Now I can drop mission data onto a phone, and that information can be updated to everyone’s devices as the intel changes.

Interoperability is essential

Smartphones like the Galaxy S20 Tactical Edition are designed to fit into the communications network easily. The ability to take all your different communications systems and put them into one EUD is unique to Tactical Edition phones. With the standardized read-only memory (ROM), plus the background services and software development tools, the Galaxy S20 Tactical Edition supports a baseline for information assurance certification at the programmatic level.

The Galaxy S20 Tactical Edition also allows for multiple Ethernet connections, which Black Diamond Advanced Technology takes advantage of to make frontline connectivity faster, easier and more efficient for service members. Previously, there would be separate ROMs for each individual user. Now it’s easier for end users to connect all those devices using a Black Diamond Advanced Technology smart hub, with no need to carry a second EUD. It also means that, as an Air Force operator, I can talk to an Army operator and know that we have the same baseline.

The unplugged future

Wireless connectivity is where communications are headed, from phones to radios to battlefield Internet of Things (IoT). This speaks to the need to reduce size, power and weight for operators. By removing the four or five feet of cabling they have to carry, individuals can move more easily through the battlespace. Accomplishing this will naturally require partnerships with radio manufacturers to develop a secure standard for wireless connectivity. And we’ll need to make sure legacy devices can still connect seamlessly.

Today, the ability to link purpose-built EUDs, like the Galaxy S20 Tactical Edition, with multiple tactical systems through Black Diamond Advanced Technology’s hub solutions reduces the size, weight and power burden on individuals. In the end, this combination ensures they have the communications and situational awareness capabilities needed so that they can fulfill the mission.

Learn how to execute safer, more effective incident response with a mobile-first approach. And discover why connectivity and security are the keys to mission communications and control.

Benny Santiago

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Benny Santiago

Benny Santiago is a Field Applications Engineer (FAE) at Black Diamond Advanced Technology (BDATech) and has been a member of the USAF Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) in the Washington Air National Guard for 18 years. Before taking a position at BDATech Benny worked as an Operational Test Program Manager for the Battlefield Airmen Division at the Air National Guard / Air Force Reserve Test Center (AATC). He has been a strong voice in modernization of Digitally Aided Close Air Support across the DoD, replacing spoken words with secure digital communication between Air and Ground Assets.

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