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Visitors to this month's Embedded Systems Conference in San Francisco needn't be alarmed if they see US GIs running around the place in combat fatigues.

Chances are they'll just be there to showoff the latest in-the-field chic in wearable computers - the Land Warrior Integrated Soldier System.

These high tech outfits are made by Pacific Consultants LLC, and offer your average soldier their own personal area network (PAN). Soldiers in the field can keep track by wireless of their team's whereabouts on an ad hoc peer-to-peer network, with audio and visual features.

For example, the system includes an Integrated Helmet Assembly Subsystem (IHAS). This high-tech headwear comes with a colour monitor that uses mapping display software.

Soldiers also get a Daylight Video Sight stuck on the end on their weapon, so they can stick the gun around corners and see what's going on via the monitor. This is aimed at stopping so many soldiers getting their heads blown off.

The wearable computer, sewn into a vest, is based on a PIII 500MHz chip with 800Mb flash hard disk and runs on Windows 2000. The system also has a radio subsystem that uses an Intel SA1100 processor and runs Windows CE.

And in true James Bond-style, captured soldiers can destroy the whole lot by pressing a button. Sensitive information can also be erased remotely.

"The Land Warrior is more than just GI Joe meets RoboCop," said David Murray, marketing VP at TransDimension, one of the vendors involved in the product. "This integrated soldier system demonstrates the unlimited potential for incorporating USB technology in unconventional, non-PC applications.

"It's truly one of the first practical examples of implementing USB in a mobile environment where PCI is not available but performance and reliability are absolutely essential."

The Land Warrior system is still a prototype, but the US Army is so impressed that it has put in an order for 35,000 of them already.

NATO and "a number of other governments" are also interested, a Pacific Consultants representative said today. The vests, which will be given a live demo tomorrow at the embedded systems conference, are expected to cost around $15,000 each and should start shipping in 2003. Which means War by 2004. reg;

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Photo and details of the Land Warrior demo

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