Navy students (U.S. Navy photo by Ensign James A. Griffin)

Warfighter health monitoring via smartphone sensors

Just as IT managers use diagnostic sensors and data analytics to monitor the performance of their systems, the Defense Advanced Projects and Research Agency wants to keep tabs on the health of the human warfighter to ensure readiness, identify weaknesses early and avert mission compromises.

Currently, understanding and assessing the readiness of the warfighter is complex, intrusive, done relatively infrequently, and relies heavily on self-reporting.

But DARPA’s Warfighter Analytics using Smartphones for Health program aims to use data collected from cellphone sensors to conduct passive, continuous, real-time assessment of the warfighter. By using a phone’s accelerometer, microphone and other sensors, WASH will extract physiological signals that can be used to determine current health status and identify latent or developing health disorders, officials said.

WASH will develop algorithms and techniques for identifying both known indicators of physiological problems (such as disease, illness, and/or injury) and deviations from the warfighter’s usual behaviors that could indicate such problems.

Although DARPA said the WASH program is still in the planning phases, smartphones sensors have been used for health monitoring elsewhere.

Cogito Corp., a Boston-based company, worked with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop Cogito Companion, a smartphone application that gathers usage data and analyzes it for patterns of psychological distress. The app has been used by the Department of Veterans Affairs to help detect signs of PTSD in returning warfighters.

Researchers have also described using native smartphone sensors to monitor lung function and blood pressure, detect falls, measure the extent of shoulder injuries and track movement.

DARPA is holding a WASH proposers day May 16  at the DARPA Conference Center in Arlington, Va. More information is available online.

About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA and MA from West Chester University and did Ph.D. work in English at the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at or @sjaymiller.

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