Could wearable tech for soldiers ‘predict injuries before they occur’?

Funding scheme offers £200,000 to support testing of proposals 

Credit: Pxfuel

A government funding programme is seeking proposals for the military deployment of wearable devices, potentially including technology that could “predict… injuries before they occur”.

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) has launched a competition inviting proposals for new forms of wearable sensors that can collect physiological or other data, or new means of “innovative exploitation” of existing technologies. 

In the first instance, this may include “novel measurements that currently cannot currently be made by wearable technologies… [such as] hydration status, a stress marker, cardiac measure or other pertinent metric”. 

In the latter case, Dstl is interested in receiving ideas that “focus on experimentation using wearable sensors in combination with data analysis to measure and monitor individuals to provide insight into the effects of environments or situations on those individuals”.

“Of particular interest would be physical, psychological and environmental stressors such as heat or cold, altitude, infection and acute and chronic stress, relative to participant specific baselines,” it added.

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Proposals should be for technologies and methods that are currently somewhere between three and six on the defence agency’s nine-point technology readiness level scale. The third level represents technologies that are at the stage of “analytical and experimental critical function and/or characteristic proof of concept”, while the sixth includes products that have delivered a “technology model or prototype demonstration in a relevant environment”.

The Innovation Focus Area (IFA) funding programme, run through Dstl’s Defence and Security Accelerator programme, will provide successful bids with up to £200,000 in funding to support 12 months of development and testing work.

“Technologies that can be used to collect physiological data – both physical and molecular parameters – from individuals in real-time, continue to develop rapidly. Such developments might be in terms of metrics measured, device functionality and/or form factor,” Dstl said. “Conceptually, there are obvious drivers for the utility of data from such devices in defence capabilities. However, there remain gaps in the evidence base to support what metrics might be reliably measured by wearable technologies and how data from these platforms might be used to improve decision making in a defence context to protect human health and wellbeing. Dstl has an aspiration to understand what metrics can be collected from wearable technology platforms that are of credible value to the defence user community.”

This value could include devices that, by collecting real-time data from military personnel, would allow the Armed Forces to “be able to accurately monitor for signs of injury and potentially predict these injuries before they occur”.

“Proposals should aim to generate evidence that data from wearable technologies is meaningful in decision-making frameworks for monitoring and maintaining human health and wellbeing and offers demonstrable benefit over current solutions,” Dstl added. “There is potential for wide exploitation of options developed within this IFA to be exploited across defence, with successful projects being scoped for further use.”

Dstl is an executive agency of the Ministry of Defence. Its remit is to explore innovation and the use of technology in defence and military operations.


Sam Trendall

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