Wearables are becoming more popular in the military and aerospace sector. Companies are developing and testing new gadgets every day before launching them out on a full scale for professional purpose. Perhaps wearable technology in the military is not new. Use of brass (metal) knuckles during the American Civil War (1861-1865) can be considered as use of wearable devices.
The intersection and collaborative decision-making between combat gadgets and battlefield resources are some of the features of the Internet of Battlefield Things (IoBT). The concept was coined by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) to enable predictive analytics for smart command and control and battlefield services. The next generation of military network will include densely deployed battlefield nodes, including weapons, vehicles, robots, and human wearable devices.
As an essential factor of the IoBT, soldiers are the most flexible information nodes on the battlefield. Various sensors fixed into a soldier’s equipment provide a command hub with multidimensional battlefield information. In addition, as interconnected and interdependent teams, soldiers continuously communicate, coordinate, and together plan and accomplish tasks using IoBT integrated equipment.
Roots of Modern Military Wearable Devices
In 1983, Motorola revealed the first commercial mobile phone – DynaTAC 8000X – which weighed 1.75 pounds, was 13 inches long, took almost 10 hours to charge, but offered 30 minutes of talk time. It cost nearly $ 4000; however, it could only make or receive calls. The evolution of the cell phone and smartphone ultimately became the primary driver of small, fast, capable, and reliable computer chips and various other electronic devices.
All of this led to the greatest revolution in soldier equipment and abilities in history. With an array of wearable devices already in or on combat uniforms and backpacks, a modern soldier has less in common with his previous counterpart.
Modern Military Wearable Technologies
The modern military wearable technologies have received much attention in recent times – thus there will be a boom in research for their advancements and application in the following years. The smart military wearables can sense, react, and adapt themselves to the environmental conditions.
Wearable technologies have become a vital element of a country’s military. Walkie-Talkies and night vision goggles used by soldiers is also now considered as modern wearable technologies. Besides, mainly due to the miniaturization of computers and mobile telephony the connectivity with warfighters by warfighters have improved significantly. A modern soldier can be seen armed with smart wristwatches, armed bands, modified headgears, goggles or even finger-rings with tiny sensors designed for various applications.
Militaries expect that the integration of any technologies must offer an untapped opportunity for efficiency improvements, safety, usability, and cost savings. Wearable technologies have proven to be extremely beneficial for militaries. Such technologies can augment the sensing capacity, providing artificial intelligence (A.I.) based solutions, cognitive abilities, and augmenting reality. Soldiers get real-time information which helps them proceed in their campaign. At Operational as well as strategic levels, such technologies have a broader impact on battlefields.
Applications of Military Wearables
To Improve Targeting
Today’s rifles can track targets, detect wind, and calculate the optimal flight path for the bullet. Hooking such rifles to an augmented reality (A.R.) platform like Google Glass can help soldiers help aim the targets without having to carefully look at them, shooting around corners or over hills and barricades.
To Monitor Physical State
The physical state of a soldier does impact the complete performance. Mounting tiny biosensors on soldiers’ bodies help their commanders to monitor the physical condition and impact of sustained Injuries. Biosensors also monitor various internal physical movements such as heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and hydration. Some sensors also detect internal injuries.
To Bridge Communication Gap between Soldiers and Military Animals
The scope of military wearables is not only limited to human soldiers; however, it goes beyond that. Animals such as horse, mules, and dogs, also take part in military activities. The biosensors integrated into their suits help track their position, health, etc. Smart wearables and portable communication devices also help ease communications among a team of soldiers and between soldiers and their commanders.
To Provide 360˚ battlefield awareness
Integration of augmented reality in various wearables helps get a clearer picture of the surrounding regions. This is done by combining a virtual screen overlay (like Google Glass) with information from reconnaissance and other real-time data received from several on-ground sensors, drones flying in the region and soldiers. The report includes location, weather conditions, satellite/radar images, and enemy troop concentrations, among other relevant information.
Technologies used in Military Wearables
There are several technologies and systems, including augmented reality (A.R.), artificial intelligence (A.I.), internet of things (IoT), sensors, radars, batteries, and more. To make one wearable device run smoothly and effectively, a mix of several technologies is created. You need various kinds of tiny sensors and other electronic components to build one wearable device. Information on different techniques used in military wearables is as follow:
Role of Batteries
Batteries are included in almost all military wearable devices. From communications to health monitoring to chemical-biological-radiological (CBR) sensors to helmet-mounted displays for real-time maps and data from other soldiers, field headquarters, USVs, and manned airborne platforms a battery is a key component of such devices. Lightweight, durable, fast, and field-rechargeable batteries are leading the wearable market demand.
Lithium thio chloride batteries (not rechargeable) meet many of the aforementioned requirements. Ther are tiny, lightweight, durable and are able to run smoothly in temperatures from -30˚F to 140˚F.
Smart clothing, in which, the military has vested interests, is booming in production as well as demand. The first generation of smart clothing is already available, mainly designed to track physical conditions and body reactions to exercise. The second-gen, comprising of wearable computers, featuring flexible, stretching material onto which 3D printer can print an array of sensors reading body movements as well as events in the surrounding simultaneously.
Graphical situational awareness
Militaries across countries are working on Soldiers Visual Interface Technology (SVIT), which improves situational awareness with graphics that are evident within a soldier’s field of view (FOV). SVIT advances lethality with the Rapid Target Acquisition (RTA) feature providing bore-sighted weapon sight within a soldier’s FOV. Such military wearables are controlled with integrated buttons or voice command suing boom microphone. Gwacs Defense Inc. engineers the Ground Warfare Acoustical Combat System (GWACS), a military wearable tactical system that recognizes and locates the hostile fire in less than a second.
Potential of IoT
Early application of wearable computing gadgets like fitness trackers has pressed the need for security at points far beyond commercial purposes. In 2017, the U.S. Divison of Defense (DOD) found a global heat-map posted by the online social community for athletes, showing its users running routes. This allowed enemy nations and terrorists to locate the U.S. Military camps.
The war uniform is a wearable electronic network that carries data to and from soldiers’ wearable gadgets. Ensuring the security of military wearable devices is complicated due to the shortage of data scientists and IoT technology.
Smartphone tracking and networking wearable sensors
Smartphone tracking has the potential application of detecting soldiers’ exposure to chemical or biological agents. In Vivo Nanoplatforms (IVN) is a tissue-integrating hydrogel biosensor created by Profusa Inc. in San Francisco. A variation on wearables, it calculates body chemistry from inside the body and can be questioned by a patch worn on the skin that sends data to a smartphone or similar gadget. IVN system includes a sensor which is smaller than a rice granule. The sensor goes under the skin with a reader on the skin. The sensor is made up of hydrogel, which is similar to the structure of the underlying subcutaneous tissue. This is important since the body does not view it as a foreign substance, thus does not encircle it with scar tissues. Because of this, the sensor can remain undamaged inside a soldier’s body for almost four years and sense and transmit data to the reader.
Key Market Players
- Lockheed Martin Corporation (U.S.)
- BAE Systems (U.K.)
- Elbit Systems (Israel)
- Aselsan A.S. (Turkey)
- Saab AB (Sweden)
- General Dynamics (U.S.)
- Harris Corporation (U.S.)
- L-3 Technologies (U.S.)
- Rheinmetall AG (Germany)
- Safran (France)
BAE Systems Plc is a leading manufacturer of military wearables. The company functions through five business segments – electronic systems, cyber & intelligence, platforms & services (U.S.), platforms & services (U.K.), and platforms & services (international). It provides military wearables from its electro-optical sensors division.
Global Investments in Military Wearables
It is difficult to make a track record of countries’ investments in military wearable devices because earlier, even though such technologies (less-advanced) were in use for many years, there were never looked at as a separate division until recently.
Currently, only the United States is following a systematic approach and making heavy investments toward incorporating military wearable technologies in battlefields. Wearables, which has now become a huge market in itself, is going to develop exponentially. Market analysts predict that the market would grow from $4.2 billion in 2019 to $6.3 billion by 2025, at CAGR of 7.2%. Rising investments in the development of superior military wearable technologies to overcome limitations of existing wearables are also adding to the boom of this market. Bodywear a.k.a smart clothing a.k.a smart textile segment is expected to possess a large chunk of future wearables.
1. What watches do Military Use?
Military watches are watches that are issued to military personnel. Here are some famous military watches: 1) G-Shock Mens CG-1000-1A5CR
2) Suunto Core watch
3) Garmin Tactix Bravo
4) Casio Pro Trek Black Analog.
2. What does Google Glass do?
Google Glass is a wearable computing device, which comes with a head-mounted display. This smart device displays information to users in a hands-free format and also enables them to interact with the Internet via voice commands, while on the go.
3. What is smart fabric technology?
Smart fabric also called smart clothing or smart garments or smart textiles are fabrics that are mounted with digital components such as battery and small computers and electronics.
4. How do wearables help military?
Wearable technologies enable soldiers to be tracked with greater accuracy, making it easier in high alert operations to monitor the safety of soldiers and reduce the risk of errors. Wearables can also be designed to go unnoticed and blend in with a soldier’s kit.
5. What devices come under Military wearables?
A soldier is equipped with many essential wearable devices. Some of them are as followed:
- Smart Jewellery.
- Fitness Trackers.
- Smart Clothing.
- Head-Mounted Displays.