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Wearable Biosensors Get Trial Run in Air Force Marathon

by Bryant Jordan on May 18, 2014

Air Force MarathonSome of the Air Force Marathon runners this year will take part in an Air Force Research Lab trial of wearable biosensors for monitoring, storing and even transmitting the wearer’s vital signs and more.

Several airmen are expected to wear the electronic patches, which contain small biosensors capable of collecting from sweat the same kinds of information doctors now get by drawing blood, according to a report on the patch by the Pentagon.

While typical human performance monitoring is done by measuring heart rate, skin temperature and blood pressure, biological chemical/molecular data is obtained from fluids. These include blood, urine, saliva and – in the case of the biosensor – sweat, the lab’s Materials & Manufacturing Directorate announced last month.

The directorate is working with the 711th Human Performance Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, to develop the wearable biosensor. It’s part of the Air Force’s Human Performance Augmentation, or HPA, program

“Augmentation … could take a variety of forms ranging from pharmaceutical countermeasures to adaptive and autonomous systems,” the Lab said in a statement. “HPA requires new sensor devices that do not interfere with warfighter operations and can be integrated with communication and information systems to satisfy broad mission needs.”

Josh Hagen, a Research Lab chemical engineer with the 711th, told the Armed With Science blog that the idea is to create “a dashboard for the human life,” with the data flowing to the board in real time via the biosensor.

“Similar to what you have in your car, when you’re looking down at your dashboard you get up to the second information on the performance and health of your car. We’re trying to do that for the human body,” he told the blog.

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