SAN FRANCISCO—Members of the U.S. Armed Forces may be the toughest consumers of all, especially when it comes to wearables. The demand for precision technology that isn’t clunky and has a long battery life far exceeds that of the traditional wearable market.
“When it comes to wearables in the military, the calculus is very different,” said Pae Wu, a scientific consultant to DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), which commissions advanced research for the Department of Defense. “Ultimately, it must be able to support and advance a warfighter execute on his or her mission.”
The U.S. military makes great use of smartphones, Wu said, noting that she is not a representative of DARPA. The move to wearables requires significant “situational awareness” and “actionable data” beyond tracking vital signs like heart rate.
“Nobody in the military cares if a technology is neat if it doesn’t provide data that allows [fighters] to take a decision [in combat],” Wu said.
To that end, DARPA is interested in environmental information such as maps, real-time intelligence, and location tracking of other troops, as well as the emerging area of “warfighter readiness.” Here, a wearable would tell users about their physiological state—whether a fighter is properly hydrated, over stressed, or suffering from cognitive fatigue.