AOptix Lands DoD Contract To Turn Smartphones Into Biometric Data-Gathering Tools

Smartphones may be invading pockets and purses across the world, but AOptix may soon bring those mobile devices to some far-flung war zones. The Campbell, Calif.-based company announced earlier today that it (along with government-centric IT partner CACI) nabbed a $3 million research contract from the U.S. Department of Defense to bring its “Smart Mobile Identity” concept to fruition.

The company kept coy about what that actually means in its release, but Wired has the full story — the big goal is o create an accessory of sorts capable of attaching to a commercially-available smartphone that can capture high-quality biometric data— think a subject’s thumb prints, face/eye scans, and voice recordings.

At first glance, it really doesn’t sound like that tall an order — smartphones are substantially more powerful than they were just a few years ago, and that’s the sort of trend that isn’t going to be bucked anytime soon. That continual improvement in terms of horsepower certainly can’t hurt considering how much data the smartphone+sensor combo is going to have to continually collect and transmit, and the company confirmed to Wired that the end product will feature an “intuitive interface” that should ensure that any soldier who’s owned a modern phone should be able to pick it up very quickly.

AOptix hasn’t publicly committed to one mobile platform over another just yet, but building a sensor device to interface with an Android device seems to be likely option at this point. After all, the U.S. Department of Defense is no stranger to Google’s mobile OS — it gave Dell’s rather awful Streak 5 tablet the go-ahead for governmental use back in late 2011. More recent reports have shown that the DoD is has also responded favorably to the notion of iPhones being used around the Pentagon, but I suspect that acquiring a fleet of Android devices for use in the field wouldn’t be quite as expensive as buying iDevices en masse. Couple the cost-argument with the highly open nature of Android development (something that could come in handy when crafting the sort of software necessary to power this whole thing).

If the notion of the DoD moving to embrace consumer tech is a little surprising though, you may just have to get used to it. Deputy CIO Major General Robert Wheeler noted in an address at this year’s CTIA MobileCon that the Defense Department’s mobile strategy involves sourcing innovative, mass-market solutions to existing issues so expect to hear more of these sorts of deals in the months and years to come.