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BAE body wearable antenna takes smart phones to war

Soldiers could soon be wearing an antenna woven into the fabric of their uniform -- attached to a smart phone.

Right you 'orrible lot: if you think it's hard to get a phone signal on the high street, imagine what it's like on a battlefield. Soldiers could soon be wearing an antenna woven into the fabric of their uniform, attached to a phone for communication, video chat and augmented reality as the bullets fly -- and the system works with any smart phone.

If you think your pockets are full, imagine being a soldier. The backroom boffins at British military company BAE Systems has developed different types of wearable antennas to reduce the load that soldiers have to carry.

BAE says the system will work with "many commercially available mobile phones". Probably not the peacenik iPhone, recently judged unfit for combat -- but if any phone could do with some help on the antenna front, it's the iPhone.

The body wearable antenna, or BWA as the brass hats have christened it, does away with conspicuous and cumbersome radio whip-antennas. Instead, antennas are weaved into the fibres of the soldier's uniform so they can still communicate without the tell-tale antenna sticking up, making it easier to move and lie down, making radio operators a less obvious target for snipers, and making it easier to walk through doors.

The antenna can transmit various types of information, such as voice signals, video from a helmet-mounted camera, and the soldier's GPS location.

Data isn't just beamed back to base: members of a squad can communicate with each other, even linking into an oppo's helmet-mounted camera to see what the situation is elsewhere. They can also tag things that they see to show up on other soldiers' phone displays, warning them of danger.

Troops could use this battlefield augmented reality to point out invisible tanks -- if they can see them first. You won't be able to move for invisible tanks, apparently.

The body wearable antenna isn't just for battle: BAE Systems reckons fire-fighters, police officers and other hazardous occupations like miners and oil and gas workers could benefit from the technology.