Wearable Sensors to Help Prioritize Wounded Soldiers’ Treatment

wearable sensors

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The immediate monitoring of environmental and personal factors can be critical for first responders and soldiers in many emergency cases. Various wearable sensors can monitor the critical information and relay it to command and control centers in real time.

“Functional fabrics” are materials with integrated sensors and internet connectivity that can sense their surroundings, communicate, control temperature and monitor physiological performance – to solve issues facing soldiers in combat or training, first responders and victims and workers in refugee camps.

According to gcn.com, employing functional fabrics was the focus of a recent hackathon hosted by the  Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to design clothing for first responders, soldiers and others facing extreme conditions.

More than 20 teams competed for two grand prizes of $15,000, courtesy of MD5, a partnership of the Department of Defense and a network of research universities.

One of the winning technologies was Security Blanket, a relatively low-tech but potentially high-impact anti-microbial blanket designed for refugee camps.

The other winning innovation was VITAL, a system that tells combat medics which injured personnel are in greatest need of treatment. The sensors in the clothing used in the VITAL system constantly monitor the wearer’s vital signs and transmit that data to a web platform. The system uses machine learning algorithms to rank the seriousness of injuries and tell medics both the location of injured personnel and the nature of their injuries.

Another team modified augmented-reality headgear to display biometric information collected from wearable sensors worn by soldiers. It connects all medics on the field so they can see when a soldier is injured, alert nearby medics, provide advice during care and monitor everything via video feed.

Other ideas developed in the hackathon included a smart belt that detects radiation exposure in submarines, military gear fitted with radio-frequency identification tags to improve packing efficiency, biometric stickers for detecting symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and uniforms that incorporate tiny fans.

MD5, which hosted the hackathon with MIT, was founded in 2015 and is based at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. – an area originally designated as Military District 5 in the original plans for the development of the District of Columbia. The public-private partnership does not invest in technologies or directly support research. Instead, MD5 is focused on training and tools for entrepreneurs, including access to DoD infrastructure and intellectual property.

Another research effort at MIT, according to bostonglobe.com, involves the development of smart fabrics that can send messages, tune in audio signals, or change colors on command, within the framework of the Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA), a public-private partnership headquartered at MIT.