Wearable Antennas Beef Up Military Smartphones

British contractor BAE Systems developed a wearable antenna that weaves into soldier’s uniforms, attaching to smartphones for communication, video chat and augmented reality.

The body wearable antennas, or BWA, can transmit voice signals and video from a helmet-mounted camera, not only back to base, but to other soldiers so they can communicate and share images. Soldiers will be able to move around much more easily with the new antenna.

Before the BWA, troops had to carry radio whip-antennas, which were much more conspicuous, in order to communicate. BWA also heightens smartphones GPS technology, allowing the position of team members to be overlaid onto a moving map and providing more holistic view of their locations.

BWA joins other mobile innovations for the military. Researchers at Ohio State University developed a similar wearable antenna for military use, which can be sewn directly into clothing using plastic film, thread and an ordinary household sewing machine.

The U.S. military is encouraging developers to create smartphone apps for military and national security use. Soldiers tested Android, Apple and Windows phones in the field over the summer, but connectivity issues have raised concerns these devices would be too unreliable on in combat operations.

However, soldiers may never go out into the field without a smartphone again if the BWA can operate well. The military’s engineers have already figured out a way to make military apps compatible on both the iOS and Android platforms, eliminating the need to develop new software.

BAE Systems says it thinks its new device can also be useful to firefighters, police officers and others who are in dangerous occupations, but for now, the BWA may have the biggest impact on the military.

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