The Android Team Awareness Kit (ATAK, aka Android Tactical Assault Kit) is a profoundly useful software collaboration and communication situational awareness application that runs on an Android mobile operating system on a smartphone or a tablet.
ATAK is an affordable, easy-to-use, secure, mobile, interactive geospatial tool that connects multiple people on the go, giving them a common operational picture digitally in an intuitive way. Users can add their own custom functionality and employ multiple types of communication systems simultaneously. It is the only app that provides dozens of capabilities and robust information-sharing in a mobile format on a commercial off-the-shelf handheld cell phone.
Originally created for the military, ATAK currently has 40,000 Department of Defense (DoD) users (Air Force, Army, Special Operations, National Guard, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security); 32,000 nonfederal users; and 69 licensees. The app is licensed only to U.S. companies that meet stringent legal requirements.
The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Information Directorate technical team developed ATAK’s plug-in functionality, as well as devised a simple, low-cost licensing model that would allow private companies to easily license the software.
The technology transfer was implemented through a highly accelerated, nonexclusive license agreement that can be completed largely online. A company can log in, complete the required information and, once it is approved, return to the website portal to autogenerate its ATAK license. This novel licensing strategy resulted in the streamlined closure of a license agreement that meets all regulatory and legal requirements.
Licensing partners can modify and adapt ATAK to their particular requirements, but must vet those changes through AFRL. Upgrades often are distributed for use to the entire user community, thus ensuring ATAK’s robustness and continuous development into the best possible technology of its kind.
The technology transfer effort benefits the AFRL, its mission, the government, and all users. The government realizes further cost savings by benefiting from shared improvements. The license enables government officials to provide ATAK to other people on their own authority for official government use, dramatically improving federal, state, and local collaboration. For example, the FBI can share ATAK with state and local counterparts so they can have seamless, interoperable collaboration and communication. During the 2017 hurricanes, ATAK was widely adopted to enable civilian, state, and military teams to rescue people and save lives.