Cleaning out my notebook from the Eurosatory show in Paris last week, I came across this item that probably should have made the cut for our Show Scout blog. I stopped by the BAE Systems display to chat with Chris Roper, the company’s business development manager for electronic systems in the U.K., and he explained the company’s submission to the U.K. Ministry of Defence’s Manworn Power and Data program.
Essentially, the MoD wants to find new ways to keep all of the electronics that soldiers now wear as part of their kit powered up without adding to the already significant battery weight that dismounted soldiers already carry around. Some of the directions from the MoD were that “they didn’t want to use cables, and didn’t want to use wireless technology” to move energy to the various electronic devices a soldier wears on his kit, Roper said.
The company’s solution is to use the fabric that lines the soldier’s protective vest to push electrical energy and data from the battery to the devices, and back.
The fabric technology was first developed to allow hikers and snowboarders to listen to their MP3 player wirelessly, Roper said, adding that BAE is working with a company called Intelligent Textiles Ltd. to develop it for military applications. The cloth has a high degree of redundancy, so if it is ripped or a hole is cut in it, the wearer won’t lose power because the juice will still find it way through.
BAE has added commercially available smart snap-on detectors to the fabric so electronic devices can be connected to receive power from two batteries, one that is designed to fit behind the soldier’s ballistic plate, and another that can be worn elsewhere.
The program is still very early in development, but the MoD has already asked industry to prove that they can move a still photograph from a camera to a display using only a small a soldier-borne computer with a docking hub in order to manage power and data. Tests have gone well so far Roper said, but he warned that the program still has a long way to go, and that the company is experimenting with a variety of new technologies in order to meet the MoD’s needs.