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Wearable battlefield tech emerging as a force

Feb. 10, 2014 - 03:45AM   |  
By KEVIN G. COLEMAN   |   Comments
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Kevin Coleman is a senior fellow at SilverRhino and former chief strategist at Netscape.

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Another emerging technology is poised to have a dramatic impact on the defense and intelligence community all over the world.

At this point, wearable computing is so early in its development there is no clear leader in this technology, and as always, it is more about the applications rather than the platform. Some of the more interesting applications being discussed behind closed doors stray far from traditional thinking. Clearly it falls under the dual-use heading and is enabling as well as disruptive.

Not only will this technology augment a soldier's basic senses, it will provide new and unique sensing capabilities that have so far been tied to large cumbersome systems, as well as the huge value brought by the wearables being networked into a highly agile sensor network. These capabilities are what will provide commanders a unique sense of the battlefield and intelligence that was out of reach from traditional applications.

Wrist bands, contact lenses, glasses and sensor-filled clothing combine to create the platform and, make no mistake, the communications will be bidirectional. That is on the traditional side. On the creative side the possibility of implanting devices into humans are actively being researched with field trials scheduled or already underway. The next step in the evolution of this technology is the integration of artificial intelligence into the devices.

This has led to some of the more out-of-the-box thinkers projecting applications including hybrid wearables that are able to make decisions and influence the individualís behavior and even expedited response, thus enhancing a humanís situational awareness.

Wearable technology is rapidly becoming a part of modern military system hardware. All this combines to create a sizeable market. Estimates put the current wearable market at nearly $1 billion this year. That market is expected to expand to an estimated $10 billion by 2020 and that is what is public. It would be a sure bet that those figures are significantly higher when you add the research, development and production of classified wearables. Whatís your role or strategy for wearables?

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