Shirt Circuit

May 1, 2005
Outside Magazine
combat T-shirt

For the U.S. military, there are no priorities higher than troop readiness and efficiency of field medical treatment. A remarkable new tool for improving both could be new combat T-shirts that allow commanders and medics to assess soldiers' fit-to-fight status and perform rapid triage miles from the fray. The lightweight, machine-washable shirts contain dime-size sensors that transmit a GI's vitals back to base. Massachusetts-based firms Foster-Miller and Malden Mills have a $5.5 million Defense Department contract to get them ready by 2008; a civilian version, with a wide range of applications, could be available by 2006. But don't worry—whatever happens in your skivvies will remain private.

» A three-quarter-inch-thick, egg-shaped MINI-CPU over the sternum collects data from the sensors, then uses a Wi-Fi-type signal to send it to a small wireless hub in a pack or on a belt, which in turn transmits it to the Army's encrypted communications system.

» The shirt's CONDUCTIVE FIBERS record the expansion and contraction of the chest with each breath, telling medics if a soldier is maxing out. An Everest Base Camp manager could monitor a climber in the same way.

» A Ballistic Impact Detection System (BIDS) uses acoustic sensors on the back, beneath the shoulder blades, that can discern the sound of a BULLET IMPACT to indicate when and where a soldier has been hit.

» At least two thermistors measure SKIN TEMPERATURE in spots like the armpit. Infantry can also swallow a nondigestible plastic pill that reads core temperature for up to 24 hours. (Overzealous triathletes might also, if a civilian pill is approved.)

» Chest sensors produce an electrocardiogram—the same HEART RATE graph you see in hospital ERs—that tracks heart rate and overall functionality of the organ.

More at Outside

Elsewhere on the Web

Not Now

Need a Gear Fix?

Open email. Get latest gear. Repeat.

Thank you!