By Ann Roosevelt

General Dynamics [GD] Itronix Tuesday unveiled its rugged GD300 wearable computer that includes commercial GPS and communications technology yet is small enough to wear on your arm, in a chest harness or slide in a pocket.

“It can fit into any existing system, but it has the capability to be a stand-alone computer, like a handheld device that has a three and a half inch screen that can run applications…but it is a device that you can connect to a tactical radio and get on to the tactical network,” Jason Jacob, product manager for the GD 300, said in an interview with Defense Daily.

With eight GB of memory and weighing less than eight ounces, the Android(tm)-based GD300 operates like an ultra-sensitive commercial GPS unit or, with the click of a cable, interfaces with tactical radios like GD’s Rifleman Radio, AN/PRC-154, for secure access to the tactical network. The GD300 uses a quadra-helix antenna for real-time global positioning that defies interference even when the user is positioned in mountainous regions or urban environments.

“The GD300 is a game-changing computer that will save lives,” said Mike DiBiase, vice president of Computing Technologies for General Dynamics C4 Systems. “We expect the GD300 will become the most important eight ounces of tactical communications and situational awareness equipment that a warfighter can carry.”

The GD300 runs on the Android system, meaning applications can be added and removed. It supports commercially available standalone applications or military apps such as the Tactical Ground Reporting (TIGR) System, which the military currently uses.

The GD300 can connect to a tactical radio that does not have encryption–though the ability to connect to encrypted radios is likely in the future, Jacob said. The device can connect to some encrypted radios now, such as the Rifleman Radio.

Designed for the soldier, “the device starts at $1,200 and gets under $1,000 in volume,” Jacob said.

Once connected to a tactical radio, the device would access the tactical network and be able to send and receive data in real time, becoming a tactical mission computer, he said.

Able to run continuously as long as eight hours, the lightweight GD300 is powered by standard lithium-ion batteries.

The GD300’s ergonomic design was the result of input and feedback from wearable-computer users from the military, government and emergency first responders, the company said in a statement. The GD300 includes a sunlight readable display and functional control buttons typically found on any Android-based device. The touch-screen display lets warfighters move information around, zoom in or out or place digital markers on tactical maps with the touch of a gloved finger. The computer fully meets MIL-STD 810G specifications for ruggedness.

Think of it as a handheld device with a radio interface kit that can dock to the bottom of the unit, while still maintaining fully rugged standards, Jacob said. “A lot of the intelligence is in the radio interface kit.”

If the technology of the devices the GD300 connects to changes, the device doesn’t have to be replaced, only the radio interface kit.

The device can be used in two different ways, Jacob said. “As a standalone device, it can act just like a GPS device, where you can load maps on to it, and track your location against those maps. You can run standalone applications, you can use it as a virtual notebook and soldiers can collect data based on events that happen and store that data in local memory.”

When connected to a tactical radio, there are a host of other functions, “such as being able to send and receive data real time, upload data you captured as well as download new data. You can also track the location of other soldiers or radios on the network like Blue Force Tracking.”

Now that the GD300 has been launched, production orders will be accepted for delivery toward the end of the year, Jacob said. They are currently involved in various field tests and exercises.

“We’ve showed it across several different service branches and we’ve had a lot of great feedback so we’re really encouraged about the device and where it’s going to go and how it’s going to be used and the benefits that it will be providing dismounted soldiers.

“Having information in real time is something we think can save soldiers’ lives,” Jacob said.

General Dynamics Itronix develops wireless, rugged computing solutions for mobile workers, offering a full range of field computing systems, and is part of General Dynamics C4 Systems.