Tech Vendors Called Up To Fill Military Needs



Increased military spending is helping vendors across several IT sectors. Handheld devices, global positioning, wireless, and cargo-tracking technologies topped the Department of Defense's shopping list, a trend that started well before the war.

Handheld maker Palm Inc. is in talks with the Defense Department about creating a device that would capture voice data during interrogations and transfer the file to a computer for analysis. It's looking into adding analysis software to the Palm OS so the analysis could be done on the handheld device. Palm also is working with the Defense Department to develop cheaper handheld GPS devices, so that more soldiers could gather and disseminate information in the field.

Wireless communications are being called into service. Cisco Systems' 3200 Mobile Access Router, mounted on vehicles, planes, and boats, delivers consolidated voice, data, and video, letting soldiers communicate while viewing enemy installations or maps, all from one device. It supports Wi-Fi satellite and cellular data-services technologies and relies on Triple Data Encryption Standard, IPSec, firewalls, and intrusion-detection tools. Since the war started, there have been requests to provide it to "people in the field," says Cisco product manager Chris Bolinger. Cisco declined to provide details on how the router is being used.

Supply-chain technology is another area getting attention. Savi Technology last month received a $90 million defense contract to provide radio-frequency ID hardware, software, and related logistics equipment, the company's third such contract since 1994. The technology will be used to track, monitor, secure, process, and deploy military supplies worldwide. Under previous contracts, Savi placed RFID readers and site managers at more than 400 locations globally to track military cargo. Those recently were made commercially available to port operators and cargo carriers.

Savi, a 13-year-old, privately held company, also has developed solar-powered, portable RFID readers and communicators and linked land and satellite-tracking systems to trace RFID tags. It has yet to evaluate commercial demand for these. As long as the military needs equipment, it may not have the time to do that.

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