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Military monitoring system nets $1.5M in DND funding for Alberta team

Wireless, battery-free sensors to transmit biometric data from the field
Military monitoring system nets $1.5M in DND funding for Alberta team

The call of duty may soon be safer, or at least more closely monitored, thanks to a proposed development from University of Alberta’s electrical and computer engineering department.

According to a university publication, Canada’s Department of National Defense has awarded Professor Ashwin Ayer and his team $1.5 million to develop a system that can use biometric sensors to communicate health status, situational awareness and other data during combat scenarios. Central command would receive soldiers’ “vital statistics such as heart rate, respiration, muscle fatigue, catastrophic damage to organs, and perhaps even brain activity.”

Theoretically, knowing what’s happening on the field will make it easier and faster for commanders to respond.

“The system relies on a constellation of compact, power-efficient sensors, sensing as many biometric properties as possible,” says Ayer. “If somebody’s critically injured, or if they are fatigued or vulnerable in some other way, can we monitor that to arrange for assistance, regroup or determine how much time we have left to get them out?”

Ayer compares his team’s envisioned technology, which incorporates wireless sensors and small antennae made from designer “metamaterials,” to science fiction and video games.

“Now,” he says, “we have the audacity to actually propose it.”

A key feature of the proposed system is its ability to run without batteries and on very little power, to make it feasible for use in harsh military conditions. The technology builds on work done by late University of Alberta husband-and-wife scientists, Pedram Mousavi and Mojgan Daneshmand, who were killed on Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752 when it was shot down in January 2020, shortly after taking off from Tehran, Iran.

Professor Rashid Mirzavand has picked up their work to develop sensors that can harvest electromagnetic and other types of energy from the ambient environment.

The money comes through Canada’s Innovation for Defense Excellence and Security (IDEaS) program, which provides funding mechanisms for university-led Canadian entities working on defense and security challenges. The contribution agreement is set for three years, with the potential for renewal, and will involve collaboration with faculty at the University of Toronto, Queen’s University, Toronto Metropolitan University, the University of Waterloo and UBC Okanagan, and private companies Meta Materials Inc. and AUG Signals.

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