Wearable AI

U.S. Army soldier using Nett Warrior device (Image credit: U.S. Army)
U.S. Army soldier using Nett Warrior device (Image credit: U.S. Army)

We are all cyborgs these days, living in a world where humans are increasingly dependent on digital devices to live, work and play. On the battlefield, a soldier’s personal devices also help alert, protect and inform their unit and command.

With the miniaturisation of digital technology, the number of electronic devices worn or carried by modern troops has grown dramatically over the past 10 years. The modern soldier already carries a variety of sensors, communication transmitter-receivers, GPS devices, night-vision aids and devices that can communicate with Wi-Fi hotspots and Mesh networks (see last week’s newsletter). However, the new-wave of artificial intelligence (AI) and data technologies are combining to create the ‘smart soldier’, improving individual efficiency, safety, and prowess on the battlefield, whilst empowering the chain of command with real-time data and intelligence directly from the field.

Recent advances now allow personal devices to collect and transmit biometric, visual, auditory, locational and environmental data. For example, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) In the Moment (ITM) programme, which focuses on developing trustworthy AI for decision-making in difficult domains, aims to provide actionable data and insights on medical emergencies. Leveraging data from personal devices, medical teams will be able to conduct mass casualty triage, when faced with large numbers of casualties, whether it be in a battlefield scenario or during a disaster relief operation.

Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Group, which is an arm of the Department of Defence, is developing a Human Integrated Sensor System project. The project aims to leverage the human body as a sensor to detect biological or chemical threats. Affected soldiers could then be immediately isolated and treated, while actions to protect other soldiers at risk could be taken in real-time.

In this fast-evolving new paradigm, data from a plethora of assets on the ground, in the air and in space informs every action. Meanwhile, every decision is supported by AI systems that leverage all that data. Smart soldiers will be able to count on enhanced situational awareness, data-driven decision making, greater resilience, advanced communication and collaboration tools, and AI-supported systems that adapt to changing conditions.

Historians will look back on the arrival of the smart soldier as a transformative moment in military operations. However, the more highly equipped and capable a soldier is, the higher value they are as a target. So, as the military rapidly accelerates into the smart soldier era, new levels of scrutiny will also be required to manage both ethical and cybersecurity implications.

by Carrington Malin