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Naval Postgraduate School Team Designs Smart Phone App
[June 01, 2010]

Naval Postgraduate School Team Designs Smart Phone App

Jun 01, 2010 (DEFENSE DEPARTMENT DOCUMENTS AND PUBLICATIONS/ContentWorks via COMTEX) -- MONTEREY, Calif. (NNS) -- While there are smart phone apps that can put a map in your hands, two Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) students have designed one that puts a whole country in your hands -- Afghanistan.

That's why National Security Affairs Research Professor and Director of NPS' Program for Culture and Conflict Studies (CCS) Thomas Johnson calls the new BlackBerry application tailored by Air Force Captains Robert Davis and Christopher Joers for in-theater warfighters, Afghanistan-in-Your-Hand.

Johnson gave the students the option of conducting research and writing the new software application in lieu of the usual research paper for a course he teaches on contemporary Afghan politics, and Davis and Joers jumped at the opportunity.


"As a result of extensive travels in Afghanistan and briefings with top military commanders, I became aware of the urgent need to make NPS Program for Culture and Conflict Studies-created data widely available to military personnel in undeveloped regions and non-urban conflict zones where there's typically either no or limited Internet access," said Johnson. "We call the solution Mobile Afghanistan -- or MobiAFG for short -- because it's the mobile, off-line version of our CCS Web site. Like the Web site, it aggregates important data with geospatial maps and analyses in a 21st Century electronic gazetteer streamlining open-source data about this critical country, its people and leaders to in-theater warfighters." MobiAFG is currently available for all BlackBerry phones running operating system 5.0 or higher, at http://www.nps.edu/programs/ccs/mobiAFG/mobiAFG.html.

"MobiAFG is kind of like a Cliffs Notes for Afghanistan," said Davis. "It gives you instant access to condensed information about the country any time, any where, 24/7/365, in the palm of your hand. All you need is a BlackBerry with the application downloaded, and a battery, and anything you want or need to know is at your finger tips." The compact, easy-to-use off-line app contains detailed files on all of Afghanistan's provinces, including geographical, human terrain and poppy cultivation maps; leadership and presidential candidate profiles; tribal and clan genealogies, divisions and histories; economic, cultural and political development analyses; and a security incidents database, among many others.

"I've served in Afghanistan with the Strategic Counterintelligence Directorate, where we had over 100 field missions outside of Kabul over a six-month period, and if I had this then, it would have been of tremendous value," Joers said. "So it's really exciting to see our efforts culminate in something we know our fellow warriors will find extremely useful. And not just useful - someday this is going to save a lot of lives." "A major part of the project was to find an efficient way to convert the Web site's PDF files into a JPEG image format suited to the application," Joers explained. "We spent 150 hours above and beyond our class work doing the research, converting more than 500 PDFs into JPEGs and optimizing the pages for display on a BlackBerry screen." Davis and Joers provided a hypothetical scenario to illustrate how MobiAFGs might be used in the field. An Air Force captain deployed to International Security Assistance Force headquarters in Kabul is redirected to Camp Leatherneck in Helmand Province where there is no Internet access and needs quick information on the tribal personalities and alliances in the region to accomplish his mission. He pulls out his BlackBerry with the app downloaded and selects Provincial Overview, Southern Afghanistan, and Helmand for a tribal map and in-depth human terrain analysis of the area.

"I think Professor Johnson was blown away when we pulled it off, and I'm amazed we were able to do it, too, especially as we had only one quarter," said Davis. -"All the stars really aligned for this project. I concentrated on the programming and Chris really got into the content editing and reformatting the Web pages. And all along we had incredible support from Professor Johnson, who's one of the world's foremost authorities on Afghanistan. It's really great he gave us the freedom to follow an extraordinary project like this and approach it in the way we wanted, right from the beginning. It's been a lot of fun having three minds working together to create such a great product." In addition to in-depth coverage of Afghanistan, MobiAFG also has on-the-go pages on Pakistan and Central Asia, academic publications, NPS theses, and relevant CCC Review Journal articles. Standard CCS Web site pages are also available in areas where there is wi-fi access.

The students are currently doing a directed study with Johnson extending the Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia apps beyond the BlackBerry to the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and other mobile platforms, which they hope to be available by June.

While the team seeks to expand the number of platforms MobiAFG can be used on, also critical to the effort's success is ensuring the data is as current and up-to-date as possible. Professor Johnson and his team are currently seeking the external funding required to facilitate this update.

After graduating from NPS, Davis and Joers both report to the Defense Language Institute, where Davis will study Arabic and Joers Turkish.

-For more news from Naval Postgraduate School, visit www.navy.mil/local/nps/.

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