Ross Wilkers


Booz Allen lands Digital Soldier opportunity with open concept

Booz Allen Hamilton wants its Digital Soldier offering to, among many other things, help soldiers obtain information they can act on and support them with human performance functions like monitoring their health and fitness.

However, there is one twist to Digital Soldier that Booz Allen is emphasizing in line with its vision of not just being a leading technology integrator but giving the military both a vision and a road-map to get the latest tools.

The twist lies in the word “its” right in the opening paragraph of this story. Digital Soldier is not designed as a proprietary offering, Booz Allen executives say, but one based on an open architecture that incorporates multiple technologies from other companies into a bundled solution intended as easier to update quickly.

“What we want to be able to do is create an architecture in such a way that the government is not locked down in any proprietary hardware or proprietary interfaces,” Booz Allen Vice President Joel Dillon told me at the Association for the U.S. Army annual conference in Washington, D.C.

“We believe the government should own the architecture,” Dillon said. “We are not tied to any type of hardware.”

At its heart, Digital Soldier is intended to help soldiers train as they fight using augmented, virtual and mixed reality applications. The goal is to use technology in creating a realistic scenario to help manage soldier performance in many types of missions, particularly in high-stress situations.

One sign that Booz Allen’s approach is resonating was announced Monday, when the firm said it booked a five-year, $561 million task order to help the Army and other federal agencies deploy a human performance management system like what many professional sports teams use for their athletes.

Digital Soldier is certainly one facet of how human performance is becoming increasingly driven by data in order to gain insights into how humans carry out their missions.

“An infantryman or infantrywoman is going to have all this technology on them, so their actual physical and cognitive performance is critical to the success of all the technology,” Dillon said. “We can gather information about performance either during training or mission rehearsal, we can analyze that data and determine what are the best ways to create a holistic model for soldier performance.”

Back to the thread about where the technologies come from to make up Digital Soldier, which also goes back to the broader theme of tech scouting that integrators and other government services companies like Booz Allen have embraced to varying degrees and with different approaches.

“We are creating an environment where nontraditional defense contractors can bring in their emerging tech and the small businesses that typically don’t work for (the Defense Department), and we are able to be that liaison and help bring that tech to the soldier directly,” Booz Allen Principal Stephanie Boone-Shaw said in that same interview.

As Boone-Shaw also pointed out, the company has stood up six innovation centers across the country in locations such as San Francisco in Silicon Valley and Austin, Texas, within the proximity of Army Futures Command. That network of centers is key in Booz Allen’s efforts to reach out and partner with that group of nontraditional companies.

That constant dialogue and act of acquiring knowledge of what technologies are out there is also key given that Army leaders often do not have the time to do the scouting themselves. Thus enter Booz Allen and other firms like it to help scout for the Army.

“They are very familiar with small businesses and industry and academia they work with today, but they want access to what they don’t know about,” Boone-Shaw said.


About the Author

Ross Wilkers is a senior staff writer for Washington Technology. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @rosswilkers. Also connect with him on LinkedIn.

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