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This U.S. defense company needed to quickly develop a wrist-worn, GPS-like soldier tracking system. Utilizing Logic PD’s complete product lifecycle management services with electrical and software engineering, System on Module, and manufacturing teams, the device was deployed to the battlefield on time.
For many years, communicating with soldiers in the field was difficult and sometimes impossible. Troops relied on written communication that took days or weeks to arrive. Today, with the expanding capabilities of personal technology devices and computers, near real-time communication is possible, and it has become crucial to soldiers in the field who depend on up-to-date tactical and mission-critical information. Growing military intelligence has made combat more strategic and even more dangerous, increasing the need for even more advanced communication devices. However, the success of these types of products has been limited due to size and weight restrictions as well as reliability and durability concerns.
The customer developed a set of high-level product requirements with the goal of delivering a small, wearable communication device to market and into the hands of soldiers quickly. The company commissioned Logic PD’s team of experts to collaborate on the complete product lifecycle of the device.
By leveraging Logic PD’s design and engineering skills, the customer sought to improve situational awareness and communication in the field with tactical networks. This new technology would combine GPS and communication software to visually track soldiers working remotely. In order to create an impact in the marketplace, end user adoption would be critical. Several considerations needed to be made to ensure that soldiers would feel comfortable using this technology and learn to rely on it.
Size and weight were the biggest restrictions to the device as soldiers already carry cumbersome gear that typically weighs 60 to 100 pounds. The customer did not want the wearable device to inflict additional burden. To design the most compact device possible, Logic PD recommended a System on Module (SOM) for processing. At less than one square inch, the SOM would eliminate excess size and weight. Logic PD’s SOMs also provide the advantage of being interchangeable and can be easily removed and replaced when an updated version becomes available, continuously improving the technology and functionality of the device.
Using Logic PD’s Roadmapping Services, a thorough review of the functionality uncovered other limitations to end user adoption, including radiation interference, temperature constraints, and battery power. Radiation emitted from the device had the potential to interfere with large voice and satellite phone communication packs also carried by troops. Along with choosing low emitting components, Logic PD developed the layout of the new baseboard to minimize radiation, and additional shielding was placed around key component groups that emitted larger amounts of radiation.
Component selection helped to solve temperature constraints. Soldiers often work in extreme environments where heat can impact the functionality of devices. Only those components that can withstand and dissipate high temperatures were chosen to provide the necessary reliability.
Power and battery life also needed to be considered when evaluating end user adoption. Since these devices would be used remotely, they would not be charged regularly. Therefore, the device had to be designed with enough internal battery life to sustain power for long periods of time. But, the compact design of the device dictated small battery size. To negate this, Logic PD utilized smart reflex technology. This type of software design stops power flow to parts of the board not being used. Smart reflex technology can quickly ramp up and down depending on the needs of the user, extending battery life.
The central function of the device is to monitor troop movement throughout remote territories and so for that reason, integrating GPS technology was critical. A compass and an accelerometer were also included to provide accuracy in output reporting. Due to unreliable GPS signals in remote locations, the accelerometer allows soldiers to project their location on-screen to help them stay on track until they regain GPS control. A glass display was used to visually show soldiers where troops are located and how they are moving using icons.
The Logic PD manufacturing team produced over 1,000 of the new devices and the customer delivered them to deployed soldiers in the battlefield for immediate use. Weighing less than 10 ounces, soldiers are able to carry or wear the device on their arm and, with the screen, interact with the map to view their location and surrounding areas. During the Concept and Prototyping Stage, the devices were tested to withstand impact, dust, water, vibration and temperature exposure to ensure reliability in the field. Soldiers favor the device because it provides improved situational awareness and connects them to tactical networks that provide mission-critical information. The customer is looking to expand this technology to other applications that can benefit from the transfer of reliable and quick information including public safety officials and first responders.
The customer, a market leader in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems, creates products that provide reliable and tactical information to defense personnel around the world.