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New app for military phones seeks to cut time, money and mistakes

courtesy of IFS

A new app, Flight Log, designed for the military was released Monday by IFS, a company that already works with the U.S. Army.

Now that we know horses and bayonets are (mostly) outmoded, a U.K.-based company says its new mobile military app can help American forces take another step toward the future by going more paperless in combat. 

IFS, a global “enterprise applications company” that already works with the U.S. Army, released Monday its “Flight Log” app specifically for military smartphones. It is designed, according to IFS, to help personnel aboard planes, boats and vehicles record real-time,mission data that can be relayed to a central command facility.

The on-the-go app, IFS contends, will save the military time, money and mistakes while making it unnecessary to take IT-trained troops with them on deployments to repair any tech glitches that arise in the field.

“Flight Log provides an immediate window into the back (IT) office, rather than having to take the back office with them where ever they go,” said Kevin Deal, vice president for aerospace & defense at IFS North America.

The Army already is investing in mobile apps but those generally are only applied to training, IFS said. Flight Log, which could be in hostile environments, “is very specialized in defense so we’re going to be hosting it internally to start with,” said Brendan Viggers, the company’s U.K.-based head of product management. “You need (to be part of the IFS system) to use. This is not something that we'll put on Google Play or on the Windows store.”

The app’s uses can span terrains. For example, if technical problems arise in flight, the app connects the crew immediately with military IT experts on the ground to alert them that a repair is needed as soon as the aircraft returns to base. Fliers can even take a photo of the glitch — for instance, a panel reading — and share that image with the IT staff at the base.

For land vehicles, Flight Log can help the soldiers record notes on the fly like “change a tire,” “fix a cracked wind screen,” “swap out radio” or “replace part for gun turret,” Deal said. “It’s a quick way of recording information on an app rather than putting that information on a piece of paper.

“If you put that (repair order) on paper, you have to wait for that piece of paper to go through the loop of fax machines versus instantly updating the system to let them (at the base) know you’ve found an error,” Deal added. Relying on paper-based notes to request repairs also “can lead to mistakes." 

Saving time is nice. But saving money — particularly amid all the campaign conversations about military budgets — may be more critical, and it's something Flight Log can help achieve, IFS contends.

“Say you’re working on an F-16 (aircraft) in an avionics bay,” Deal said. “You can sit there and look at a technical component that’s broken and take a picture of it with the app. After an IT member sees the picture, it may turn out that it’s not required that this problem get repaired right at that moment, which is important if you’ve got sorties you’ve got to fly. Or, if you do need to get a new part, you can look at that app and ask it: ‘Where is that part? Can I get it here quickly? If so, I’ll go ahead and make that repair now.’ So it really extends the abilities of the flight-light maintainers.”

Flight Log also gives service members a digital tool to replace mounds of paper instructions that detail highly complex pieces of military equipment. For example, the instruction manual for a C-130 military transport plane can fill an entire briefcase, IFS said. Aside from bulk, paper presents other potential problems: a soldier’s notes on a technical problem get jotted on a slip paper that eventually goes missing, or the problem is simply wrongly described in a written report. The ripple effects of such clerical mistakes can roll into waves of lost time and lost dollars, Deal said.

“Bad data is one of the biggest things that military IT infrastructures face,” Deal said. “It can actually cause you to buy the wrong parts or to procure too many of a particular item.”

Flight Log is not yet in use in the U.S. military — though IFS expects that it soon will become an icon on many service members’ phones.

“In addition to the cost-savings that come with better data accuracy, and the cost savings of (eliminating) paper-captured information, there’s also a reduction of training — and that saves money, too” Viggers said. “They can just download it from the app store and use it straight away, and nobody has to teach them how to find it or how to use it.” 

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