Soldiers on the battlefield, firefighters in the midst of raging wildfires and first responders to natural disasters often succeed or fail in their life-saving missions by having the right information in the right place at the right time. In situations where power and the ability to communicate are the first casualties, connectivity can be a life-or-death matter. Portable data and power supplies currently carried by military and emergency personnel add weight and complexity. BAE Systems, a global defense, aerospace and security technology firm based in London, England, had a better idea.
BAE Systems joined forces with Intelligent Textiles Limited (ITL), a British start-up making knitted conductive textiles, to develop wearable connectivity—the Broadsword® Spine®. The e-textile shell (it looks like a vest) added to a user’s clothing creates an invisible electronic network and power supply, run with conductive fabrics. Users can plug vital electronic devices into the vest, jacket or belt to hook up to power and data via USB port. The wearable technology weighs approximately 40 percent less than alternative systems.
“It will be more flexible, robust and lighter than the heavy, unwieldy harnesses which are currently used,” says Paul Burke, Defence Information and Technology director with BAE Systems Military Air and Information. “Broadsword Spine offers an open architecture, meaning
it could be used to power communications used by anyone from a soldier on the battlefield to a first responder called to an emergency.”
The gear operates in harsh environments and is resistant to water, fire, humidity and shock. It can be recharged in the field via in-vehicle charging points or battery replacements. Identical USB connectors allow users to plug in virtually any device to any connector anywhere on the system.