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Military innovation: Wearables for soldiers

Posted: 29 Jul 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:wearable  military  BAE Systems  Lockheed Martin  soldier 

Beneath the surface, key technologies are enabling incremental changes in the military. Examples include using 3D printed helmet linings, which improve temperature control in hot environments; on-body printed antennas with minimal visible signature; IR shielding techniques used to minimise infantry heat signatures; and conductive textiles for seamless integration of electronic components into uniforms.

Intelligent Textiles Ltd's Soldier Systems platforms

Intelligent Textiles Ltd's Soldier Systems platforms

Sample project from Intelligent Textiles Ltd

Sample project from Intelligent Textiles Ltd

Sample project from Intelligent Textiles Ltd, with BAE Systems

Sample project from Intelligent Textiles Ltd, with BAE Systems

The co-founders of Intelligent Textiles Ltd demonstrate their product

The co-founders of Intelligent Textiles Ltd demonstrate their product

The most essential message for developers on the technology side is the increasing need for systems integration. Having multiple battery types, excessive cabling, and incompatible systems are all very avoidable problems. Integrating power and data systems into clothing, and particularly body armour, is seen as the next key development for many global military forces. This will provide a weight-efficient, customisable and practical platform for technology integration, enabling the potential of new emerging components to be realised.

The need for sensors

While many types of optical or EM sensors are used to sense the environment around the soldier, there are no systems in place to directly sense the vital signs of the soldier.

Sergeant Duncan Stewart and Major Richard Cave stated that live monitoring of soldier vital signs during combat would be actively detrimental to the role of the army. Both legal and ethical accountability issues arise, and while the data could be useful in a retrospective analysis, they don't see live data monitoring during service as useful. However, this is not to say that vital signs monitoring has no place in the military, it can be useful for training and post-event analysis, but not for live monitoring.

The bottom line? The human factor of wearable technology means that developers truly need to understand the needs of the user. In military applications, this need equates to life-or-death situations. Developers must understand the system that they are contributing to in order to make a positive impact.

- James Hayward
  IDTechEx


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