Defence tracks soldiers' guts to boost performance

Defence tracks soldiers' guts to boost performance

Summary: Soldiers and sports people will find their health tracked from the inside, as four sport and research organisations pool their research on performance monitoring -- such as pills which measure core body temperature when swallowed and report the data wirelessly.

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Soldiers and sports people will find their health tracked from the inside, as four sport and research organisations pool their research on performance monitoring -- such as pills which measure core body temperature when swallowed and report the data wirelessly.

DSTO researcher Alison Laing explains to Minister for Defence Science and Personnel Warren Snowdon MP (second from right) how DSTO's soldier performance monitoring equipment works. Credit: DSTO

The collaboration between the Defence Science Technology Organisation (DSTO), CSIRO, the National Information Communication Technology Australia (NICTA) and the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) is designed to give athletes and soldiers a competitive edge, with the groups pooling information on areas including remote performance monitoring and equipment design.

The DSTO and NICTA have already worked together to develop algorithms to process information from devices fitted to soldiers which monitor their wearer's heart rate, location, and movement.

The monitoring device sits on the chest like a heart rate monitor, according to a spokesperson for DSTO, and sends back data wirelessly to the command centre. The device can also tell if the wearer is lying down, sitting or standing by measuring how gravity acts on the body, NICTA senior researcher Leif Hanlen said.

"What we are trying to do is determine what the soldier is doing and how much energy that requires to see how fatigued he is," Hanlen added.

The devices enable command centres to get an overview of the state of all solders in the field and which soldiers need a rest. "If you know someone's been working too hard you can substitute them," Hanlen said. The same idea works for teams in sports such as basketball, and helps athletes pace themselves in individual competition.

The collaboration will also see DSTO share its developments in the field of internal monitoring, including a new pill which, when swallowed, measures core body temperature and transmits the data back to a control centre via short wave radio technology, the DTSO spokesperson said. Knowing an individual's core body temperature allows command "to work out if the soldiers are in physiological distress in the environment they are in", the spokesperson added.

CSIRO and the Australian Institute of Sport have also been working on a sleeve which tracks the motion of a player's arm, which could be used to monitor a basketball player shooting hoops, the DSTO spokesperson said. This allows players to "tweak performance", they continued, and could be translated to a military application to help soldiers move more efficiently.

"This collaboration will study, amongst other things, injury prevention, remote monitoring and performance in extreme environments, and will give us good science to underpin our future decision making," the Minister for Defence Science and Personnel Warren Snowdon said in a statement.

The monitoring technology will also help give Australian sports people a boost at the upcoming Olympic Games. "Applying new ideas and technologies to sport will give our athletes a tremendous competitive advantage leading into the 2008 Beijing Olympics and beyond," Minister for Sport Kate Ellis said in a statement.

Topics: Government AU, Emerging Tech, Government, IT Employment

Suzanne Tindal

About Suzanne Tindal

Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at ZDNet.com.au as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for the site.

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