In the U.S., Memorial Day has devolved into a notoriety based mostly on picnicking and fabulous savings at big-box stores. However, it started life as a memorial called Decoration Day, first started by freed slaves in South Carolina to honor the Union soldiers who had died in a war that ended with the abolition of slavery. It was meant as a day of reconciliation and peace in the aftermath of the American Civil War.

Especially to those in the military, or from military family, the day retains some of its original flavor. Even as it honors those who have died in military service, it affirms the desirability of peace and stands as a memento mori for those in uniform. To do our small part in celebrating it, we wish to highlight a few of the stories of technology in military service we have written in the last year.

U.S. Army Turns to Social Media to Recruit

I wouldn't call the American military "early adopters" but I'm not surprised that they have turned to social media for recruiting, as the New York Times reports.

Back in 2006, when I spoke at a State Department-sponsored conference on social media and democracy, the only group of governmental participants open to social media, and already using it, were the military. They were subscribing to RSS feeds, including search feeds, reading and commenting on blogs and participating on forums. So there is precedence for reaching out on social media sites.

Army Develops Android Phone for Battlefield

First, the U.S. Army's Captain Jonathan Springer developed the iPhone app, Tactical Nav, for battlefield mapping and artillery sighting. Now, Ft. Bragg has developed an integrated system for many of the same things based on the Android operating system. According to the Army's Web page on the project, the security of the system is paramount.

"The device, known as a Joint Battle Command-Platform, or JBC-P Handheld, is the first developed under an Army effort to devise an Android-based smartphone framework and suite of applications for tactical operations. The government-owned framework, known as Mobile /Handheld Computing Environment, or CE, ensures that regardless of who develops them, applications will be secure and interoperable with existing mission command systems so information flows seamlessly across all echelons of the force."

Using Public Data to Fight a War

How does a technology built for apartment-hunting end up being evaluated by the U.S. Army for use in Afghanistan? Cazoodle is using public data sources like Flickr and OpenStreetMap to build detailed guidebooks for American soldiers. Last week at Strata I sat down with company CTO Govind Kabra to find out how they do it.

Its project for the Army is to build a detailed database of information about places in Afghanistan, using only public sources on the Web. The goal is to describe in detail the towns and cities including everything from names, locations and populations, as well as lists and coordinates for schools, mosques, banks and hotels.

U.S. Military Can Restore a Country's Internet - Whether It Likes It or Not

Although attacks by governments against their own people using the Internet get more press, warfare between countries has been spreading online for some time. Most of the instances that have come to light have been viruses designed to stop, or slow down, activities in another country that the attacking country feels threatened by, or spying operations.

The United States, like most governments, has developed teams and tools to wage Web warfare. But not all the tools are what we would normally think of as offensive weapons. The U.S. military, it turns out, can force a country that has disconnected itself from the Internet back online.

iPhone App Lets Soldiers Map Their Battlefields

This isn't an app that lets a soldier make on-the-go journal entries, write poems about his or her feelings or check vitals a la a mood ring. Tactical Nav is an app that lets a soldier map and plot waypoints on a battlefield, take photos and share coordinates with fellow soldiers and units, direct artillery and call in medevac.

Its developer is 31-year-old Captain Jonathan Springer of the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne, who reportedly spent $26,000 of his own money to develop the app. It is set for release next month in the Apple App Store

DARPA and Raytheon Building New Ad-Hoc Mobile Network for the Military

Coalition forces in Afghanistan and Iraq have a major communications issue: military, security contractor and non-government organizations frequently need to communicate with each other during combat and other operations. But communications technology compatibility issues often prohibit them from doing so effectively.

DARPA contracted Ratheon in 2009 to build the "Mobile to Ad-Hoc Interoperable Network GATEway" (MAINGATE), a mobile network that both military and civilian organizations can use to communicate using any radio or wireless device. The agency announced last month that the system has now been tested for video, voice and data by both high- and low-bandwidth users.

Android Phones Go to War

Reports this week revealed that U.S. defense contractor Raytheon, maker of the Patriot missile defense system, is developing software for soldiers that runs on Google's Android operating system.

The software, called the Raytheon Android Tactical System, or RATS, has already been tested by some members of the U.S. Special Forces.

It involves a social-networking type of display where soldiers interact as "buddies" and track each others' movements on the battlefield.

Military-Grade Augmented Reality Could Redefine Modern Warfare

When explaining the concept of augmented reality to someone who has never heard of it, I find myself going through a series of common real-life and pop-culture examples to help them understand. Aside from explaining that the "1st and Ten Line" in football games and the computer vision of the Terminator are indeed forms of augmented reality, I often use examples from the military - the fighter pilot heads-up-display, for example - as well. In fact, the military has played a significant role in the early development of AR, and one company is attempting to make sure it is a large factor in the future of the technology as well.

A Chicago-based company called Tanagram Partners is currently developing military-grade augmented reality technology that - if developed to the full potential of its prototypes - would completely change the face of military combat as we know it.

Do you have a favorite story of the read/write Web in a military context? It doesn't have to be one of ours. Drop the URL in the comments section.

Flag and flower photo by Jackie