Pentagon Goes All-in on the Sci-Fi Soldier
It started with $2 million worth of Fitbits. Very quickly the project evolved to 3D printed helmets with nanofiber sensors.
That’s what happens when the military decides the Internet of Things can improve soldier performance.
The Army Research Lab is now all-in with sensors. In fact, if all goes according to plan, future body armor and munitions will be straight out of a science fiction novel. Equipment will adjust to the wearer’s specific biology.
Investors should take note. Good stuff is coming.
The U.S. military has always been on the cutting edge of technological development. From Caltech to MIT, Uncle Sam has been a willing financial partner to some of the leading academic institutions in the country.
In 1982, the modern internet was born when an obscure academic packet-switching network called APRANET adopted the internet protocol TCP/IP. That project was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.
In fact, many of the cutting-edge technologies we take for granted today began in DARPA programs. Siri, the popular iPhone assistant started as CALO, a cognitive assistant that learns and organizes. The interaction of Google Maps began with an MIT team and Aspen Movie Map.
In many ways, what the Army Research Lab is attempting to do with sensors pushes the envelope even further.
Elon Musk, founder of Tesla (TSLA) and SpaceX, often muses about merging humans with artificially intelligent computer networks. And Ray Kurzweil, the noted futurist and Google chief engineer, has been talking about the technological singularity for decades.
DARPA’s own take on this idea began in 2013 with the BRAIN initiative. For example, a better understanding of neuroscience could help amputees and those suffering from brain injuries. And implanted devices and a software interface could lead to super soldiers.
Think Jason Bourne without all the mind control, amnesia and driving soundtrack, theoretically.
Now imagine new weaponry, gear and other systems capable of reacting to a soldier’s specific biology. This gear could sense stress, changes in focus, plus physical and mental health. Clothing might automatically cool or warm. A rifle might adjust its trigger level.
The combination would be unstoppable.
Defense One reports the Army Research Lab and other research operations are investing heavily. Subjects are monitored for six months to two years. And unlike private-sector case studies, participants are subject to constant scrutiny because the military provides housing, healthcare and travel.
The Air Force is developing a temporal artery sensor to measure blood-oxygen levels. They are mounting the gizmo inside the helmets of F-22 fighter pilots.
Cameras equipped with infrared technology in the cockpit can measure cerebral oxygenation simply by shining a light on the pilot’s forehead. Oxygenation is directly correlated to cognitive function.
And progress is being made with simple camera technology, too. With the correct software, cameras can measure enough biometric data to understand how small changes in heart rate can determine stress levels, even from 100 meters away.
This technology is already showing up in high-tech hardware like the so-called Iron Man exoskeleton is being developed for the U.S. Special Operations Command. The prototype is in its fifth iteration, and it’s expected to undergo field testing in 2018.
For investors, the payoff is likely to be huge.
Public companies are participating in these developing technologies. And not all of them are the defense contractors you would expect. Finding these success stories and deciding the right time to invest is the service I provide to members.
This is truly the age of invention. Advances in computer processing power, data analytics and modeling have made the process easier than ever.