Building the Start-Up Army
In February, programmers from all over the army gathered for the first-ever IDF Mobility Hackathon. Their goal? To build mobile apps that will streamline and improve the IDF’s operations by taking advantage of the incredible technology that we carry in our pockets.
The future of computing is not in the office; It’s out in the field. For 48 hours straight, these talented soldiers sat at their computers, tablets, and other devices and created the future of the IDF – mobile apps with the best security on the planet.
Android is the name of the game
Security is our top priority. Mobile technology is not without its risks. To ensure the safety of the lDF‘s mobile activities, the IDF built a custom version of Android designed to work with the military’s existing infrastructure.
It wasn’t an easy task. lDF programmers had to review every single detail of the code. Often times, due to the closed nature of the lDF’s network, they had to re-create features from scratch so that they would work on military systems.
Take push notifications for example. We take for granted the technology that makes sure we receive notifications the second we receive a message. They are a fact of our everyday lives.
However, push notifications require an always-on connection. It is extremely difficult to make this type of connection work behind the numerous military grade firewalls. However, mobile apps NEED push notifications.
Now, after modifying Android, the lDF has a mobile platform that has all the normal features and the best security in the world.
The goal is complete collaboration across all units in the army
The hackathon reinforced the core principles of the IDF technological units: creativity, collaboration, and a constant drive to innovate. The mobility hackathon gathered units from all across the lDF including the ground forces, navy, air force, intelligence units, and telecommunications units.
ldan Felix, a leading Israeli Android developer, was on hand to give the soldiers a quick primer on Android development. “I am blown away by this event,“ he said. “It is an incredibly unique format. I look around and see teams made up of soldiers from all over the army. For them, cooperation, friendship, and dialogue are the standards.”
The best work is the result of personal motivation
The lDF technological units place great emphasis on its soldiers’ drive to succeed and their motivation to constantly innovate. It was on full display over the course of the event.
“Top-down command is usual in the military. Here, in the informal setting of a hackathon, it is from the bottom up. Each soldier is working on a project that they are passionate about,” said Major Ziv Cohen, the Chief Instructional Officer of the IDF Computing and Cyber Defense Academy.
The impact is clear. The hackathon was filled with creative energy. Soldiers spoke passionately about their creations. One team created an app that judges the wind speed and direction to assist snipers in the field. Another team created an app that translates graffiti or text in Arabic on the spot.
“When you give soldiers the ability to set their own agenda, their work dramatically improves,” said Maj. Cohen. “The soldiers understand how massive an impact they truly have.”
IDF Cyber Defense Academy graduates will lead the next generation of tech
The skills lDF programmers learn in the military set them up for a life of success. Their innovative mindsets, entrepreneurial drive, and practical experience drive the lsraeli startup ecosystem forward.
Graduates of the lDF Computing and Cyber Defense Academy have already received over 3.2 billion dollars of startup funding. The way the lDF trains its programmers certainly seems to be working.