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Italian Army gets medi-telemetry earrings

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DSEi A well-known Italian hi-tech firm says it has just delivered a trial batch of datalink earrings to the Italian army, intended to relay vital-signs telemetry from troops in combat back to the command post in the style of the movie Aliens.

Aero Sekur, perhaps best known to Reg readers as the firm behind the Italian individual inflatable re-entry podule and associated all-female skydiving team, is touting its wares along with the rest of the death-tech/serospace world here at the DSEi armsbiz trade fair in London this week. The Reg spoke this morning to Alessandro Pica, product development supremo, who told us about the company's efforts on the Italian 'Soldato Futuro' digi-trooper project.

It seems that Aero Sekur originally developed a sensor array built into a T-shirt, designed to be worn under body armour and send its information to the rest of the Soldato Futuro rig via Bluetooth. The networked T-shirt would allow Italian commanders to view their men and women's vital signs in near-real-time in their command vehicles or bunkers, or perhaps on their own display monocles. Just as the ineffectual Lieutenant Gorman was able to watch his troops' readouts flatlining as the aliens slaughtered them, so will Italian military bosses of the future know whether a man down is dead or just wounded, how badly etc.

In particular, Aero Sekur plans to develop new software which could analyse the delay between a heartbeat and the associated blood motion to work out what's happening in the circulatory system. Pica believes that such a system could detect massive bleeding, for instance, or other life-threatening conditions.

However, it seems that the T-shirt unit proved unsatisfactory, as it would give false readings whenever the fabric moved about on the soldier's body. As a result, Pica says, Aero Sekur has moved to head-mounted sensors. The firm has apparently delivered an early batch using earclip sensors to the Italian military for use in trials, but he thinks that ultimately sensors will be integrated into military helmets.

The company is also showing off another new bit of military tech at the show: a stealth poncho intended to render its user undetectable by infrared or thermal-imaging systems without being as cripplingly hot and cumbersome as current examples - and also being waterproof.

According to Pica, the new cloak emits scattered heat in the same way as "3D" camouflage netting, so allowing heat to escape but breaking up the tell-tale outline of the man beneath. However the fabric is in fact of normal 2D construction, so remaining waterproof and avoiding the noise and snagging hazards of camouflage netting.

As for the spacesuit re-entry pod, Pica says there hasn't really been any more progress since our last report. Still, the company remains hopeful for the concept. ®

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