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AKO 'Go Mobile' to give users virtual desktop in backpack

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Oct. 13, 2009) -- By January, Soldiers on the go will be able to do just about anything they do now on their desktop computer if they're issued portable equipment attached to a cell phone.

Users of the "Go Mobile" system will be able to use the Internet and authenticate to the Army Knowledge Online/Defense Knowledge Online Web portal through a smart phone, using cellular data services, just about anywhere in the world they can get a signal.

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"This is a capability to reach out and do business in a mobile environment," said Col. Earl Noble, project manager for the AKO/DKO Web portal.

Army Knowledge Online developed the "Go Mobile" system -- now in initial operational capability -- which combines software on AKO with a cellular phone and optional portable hardware that includes such things as a smart card reader, printer, projector, dumb terminal, head-up display goggles, and solar recharging capability.

The Go Mobile system started with an upgrade to the AKO/DKO system that gives users secure PDA or smart-phone access to its services, applications and data. That access includes such things as e-mail, calendar, address book, assigned tasks, contacts, video, documents, portal pages and other network services. Added to that are new, third-party equipment items that allow users to function on the road in much the same way they function in garrison.

At the heart of Go Mobile system is a smart phone that runs a mobile version of the Microsoft Windows operating system. The addition of an optional dumb terminal gives users a larger screen and keyboard to look at and type on, while the actual computing power remains on the phone.

"Everything you see on the phone you see displayed on the screen," Noble said. "It's like a surrogate laptop, where your phone is the computing device."

Also optional, though necessary to authenticate to AKO/DKO, is a wireless smart card reader that allows users to authenticate to Army networks using their common access card. Other additional equipment that's part of the Go Mobile system: a printer, a set of goggles a user can wear to create the equivalent of a 50-inch display, multiple options to recharge the system's batteries using solar panels, and a cigarette package-size mobile projector to give presentations wherever the user needs to present information.

"Our telemedicine folks are planning to procure these so they can do briefings in mud huts in Africa and teach people about AIDS prevention," Noble said.

All the equipment together could fit easily into a backpack. And right now, there's two solar recharging options available as part of the Go Mobile system. First is a battery with three blades that fan out to reveal solar panels, and second is a backpack with built-in solar panels on the rear. Both can be used to charge the equipment that is part of the Go Mobile system.

Access to a compatible and participating cellular data network is required for full use of the Go Mobile system, and Noble said the Go Mobile team is working to ensure that access is available wherever users want to go.

"Your data plans you can buy based on where you are going to be in the world," he said. "We have a worldwide focus and we have connections to all the major cell carries around the globe."

Currently the Go Mobile system is in testing and is limited to less than 100 users. Noble said by January, the program will be "open to the world."

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