WASHINGTON, D.C.–“Man down!”
In today’s operating environment, minutes of the precious “Golden Hour” might pass while ground units determine who is wounded and where. But a thin Mylar panel with a bluetooth link may eliminate some of the fog of war in the future.
The panels, which weigh a few ounces and can be worn under body armor, are printed with an electronic grid and a bluetooth device that can send an alert to cell phones or radios when the signal is broken by a bullet, shrapnel, or a knife wound.
A command post will receive information “identifying the location of that person, the identity, as well as where on the body he was hurt, without him having actually to call for help,” said Vik Patel, the CEO of the Arizona-based company Datasoft, which makes the panels.
The product, a bargain at roughly $300 for two plates, was originally designed as an extra level of protection for local police departments. Patel said the first customer, the Montgomery County, Virginia Sheriff’s Department, will receive 100 sets of plates this fall.
But the U.S. military has also shown interest. Patel said the Marine Corps has purchased fewer than 100 of the systems, and a small number of Marines from Camp Pendleton, California will deploy with them next month.
Army officials have not made a firm commitment, he said, but have asked him for a quote for 800,000 of the systems.
While the plates are fairly simple and straightforward today, DataSoft executives are now in talks with body armor manufacturers to fuse the technology directly onto armor plates to create a unified system.
“This can be incorporated into a fabric, too,” he said. “We talked to fruit of the loom and other makers of fabric, about integrating it directly so it’s washable, all sorts of things. Plus, we can integrate biometric sensors for the body, not just to say he was hurt, but what his blood pressure is, what his temperature is, how his heartbeat is.”
The same technology can also be used for equipment–vehicles, tranformers, and even buildings–to give unit leaders situational awareness about the condition of their gear, Patel said.
The question is, are they willing to pay for it and what are they willing to pay,” he said.