E-garment snoops on troops

Wired underwear monitors heart rate, whereabouts, and even posture, then transmits to boss.

QinetiQ

Sit up straight. Be on time. Watch your blood pressure; wise admonishments all, yet hard to enforce--until now.

A new type of undershirt wired with an integrated system can now monitor an individual's heart and respiration rate, activity, GPS location, and even posture, then transmit the data to a supervisor or other concerned adult.

Where are they? How are they? These are questions the TrainTrak physiologic "garment-based" monitoring ensemble promises to answer, according to developer, QinetiQ. By updating real-time location and physiologic status the "e-garment" can help maintain "personnel accountability, increase situational awareness, detect potential casualties, and expedite/monitor the triage process." No more goofing-off.

A small ruggedized module containing data processing electronics and the system's sensor network plus a radio transceiver are embedded "unobtrusively" in the shirt. The garment can be worn by itself or under body armor. It's powered by a rechargeable battery and is machine washable.

Designed for strenuous military, first responder and athletic use, the TrainTrak can also serve as a training tool. During training exercises, the actions and physiologic readings of multiple actors can be recorded and screened later.

Another company, Textronics, is already offering a civilian version. The NuMetrex Heart Sensing Sports Bra and Cardio Shirt for Men feature sensing fibers knit directly into the fabric, which transmit the wearer's heart rate directly to a wrist watch.

Still somewhat clunky compared with garments envisioned and designed by an MIT team. For these researchers, a true "e-garment" will have electronic circuits fashioned entirely of textiles to perform touch sensing while distributing data and power.

"These circuits use passive components sewn from conductive yarns as well as conventional components, to create interactive electronic devices, such as musical keyboards and graphic input surfaces," according to the team's paper, Smart Fabric, or Washable Computing. (PDF)

"Eventually, whole computers might be made from materials people are comfortable wearing," the report concludes.

Imagine glancing at your watch to check your date's heart rate and temperature. What a time saver.

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Sci-Tech
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    The military establishment's ever increasing reliance on technology and whiz-bang gadgetry impacts us as consumers, investors, taxpayers and ultimately as the defended. Our mission here is to bring some of these products and concepts to your attention based on carefully selected criteria such as importance to national security, originality, collateral damage to the treasury and adaptability to yard maintenance-but not necessarily in that order. E-mail him at markr@milapp.com. Disclosure.

     

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