January 25, 2008

Vital Garments

New clothing designed by Smartex may have significant use in the COIN fight in Afghanistan and Iraq. In an article in Wired, Sally McGrane tells us about this new wonderstuff:

Powered by a tiny embedded lithium battery, it's a washable unitard that reads the wearer's vital signs and beams the data wirelessly to a computer. Information on posture and movement is measured by the stress on sensors built into the garment. Other components gauge electrical activity, yielding EKG data. Heat sensors measure temperature. In the not-so-distant future, De Rossi says, health professionals will be able to monitor cardiac patients by unobtrusively tracking their vital signs as they go about their lives.

While she mentions nothing about particular military applications, use of modified types of this techology in SOF soldiers, mentor teams, and other highly vulnerable soldiers in the battlefield could allow medical providers to check on soldiers in distant places and provide rapid alert of an impending MEDEVAC request.

Like much off-the-shelf technology, this could also level the playing field for insurgents, who depending on the availability of the technology could, coupled with cell phones and laptops, also use it to help keep their soldiers more healthy, an advantage almost always held by counterinsurgents.

This must not entirely escape Smartex. The owner of the company once worked for DARPA.