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Remote physiological monitoring in an austere environment: a future for battlefield care provision?

Abstract

Wearable technologies are making considerable advances into the mainstream as they become smaller and more user friendly. The global market for such devices is forecasted to be worth over US$5 billion in 2018, with one in six people owning a device. Many professional sporting teams use self-monitoring to assess physiological parameters and work rate on the pitch, highlighting the potential utility for military command chains. As size of device reduces and sensitivity improves, coupled with remote connectivity technology, integration into the military environment could be relatively seamless. Remote monitoring of personnel on the ground, giving live updates on their physiological status, would allow commanders or medical officers the ability to manage their soldiers appropriately and improve combat effectiveness. This paper explores a proof of concept for the use of a self-monitoring system in the austere high altitude environment of the Nepalese Himalayas, akin to those experienced by modern militaries fighting in remote locations. It also reviews, in part, the historical development of remote monitoring technologies. The system allowed for physiological recordings, plotted against GPS position, to be remotely monitored in Italy. Examples of the data recorded are given and the performance of the system is discussed, including limitations, potential areas of development and how systems like this one could be integrated into the military environment.

  • biotechnology & bioinformatics
  • altitude medicine
  • physiology

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