from the September 2011 issue

Device to monitor troops' medical status

The Israel Defense Force (IDF) is planning to test a wearable device capable of monitoring a soldier's physical condition and alerting commanders to life-threatening situations, the Ma'ariv daily reported on June 29.

The "physiological sensor," a miniature device developed by Israeli start-up Life Beam, is attached to the ear of a person and simultaneously monitors critical physiological parameters, including blood pressure, breathing and heart rate, while the soldier is engaged in rigorous activities. The sensor can instantly discern life-threatening changes that point to heat stroke or dehydration, enabling early evacuation and treatment.

Two former Israeli Air Force pilots, who served together and came up with the idea during their tour of duty, founded life Beam.

"We saw incidents in which people died or nearly died, and began thinking of ways to prevent them," one of the founders, in his early 30s, told Ma'ariv. While training-related fatalities are a rare occurrence in the IDF, which routinely operates in extreme weather conditions, a handful of soldiers, mostly young trainees, have died over the past decade during desert exercises.

"Soldiers will be monitored in the future battlefield," a senior IDF's Medical Corps officer has said, adding that "militaries around the world are still only thinking about the idea." A prototype of the device has undergone successful lab trials, and the Medical Corps said it plans to launch its own testing in coming months.

While the IDF has already placed orders for the sensor for some special forces units, its developers say their vision is to develop a civilian version that would save the lives of infants, the elderly, athletes and patients with chronic illnesses.

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report September 2011

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