Program Manager IARPA, District of Columbia, United States
Intelligence Community (IC) and Department of Defense (DoD) missions often require sensor systems that can collect and communicate critical information on staff members’ location and surroundings when they are working in dangerous or high stress environments. In these scenarios, mission safety and effectiveness are reduced when users are distracted by using the sensor system, just as taking a phone call or reading a text reduces safety when driving a vehicle. In IC and DoD missions however, distracted work can lead to serious national security risks.
Consider, for example on-site arms control inspections performed at nuclear fuel enrichment facilities, or chemical manufacturing plants in accordance with international organization procedures such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) or the United Nations Monitoring Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) for Iraq. During these missions, US and other international inspectors tour facilities replete with safety hazards, reach into cramped spaces to take samples, and pore over data presented to them on computer screens or on paper. During these inspections, recorded audio and video data, and the location where the information was gathered is critical to inspection success. However, if inspectors are distracted from their duties, or experience an impaired range of motion from carrying or wearing bulky equipment, personal injury or incomplete data gathering can occur. In an on-site inspection scenario, such incidents can lead to reduced confidence in arms control inspection integrity, eroding the effectiveness of international organizations to help avoid war.
Development of comfortably worn sensor systems for use in situations like on-site arms control inspections is the objective of IARPA’s new Smart electrically Powered And Networked Textile Systems (SMART ePANTS) program. For maximum comfort and dexterity of the user, additional program objectives include sensor integration into clothing, where the garment maintains similar stretchability, bendability, surface roughness and washability attributes to a comparable item containing no sensor. SMART ePANTS sensor systems must also be safely worn against the skin, be reusable, and be capable of exporting the data they gather to an external computer system. Sensor systems will be entirely incorporated into clothing fibers, or (to a limited extent) expected rigid components of commercial garments such as buttons, grommets, zippers, piping, collar stays or other structural pieces.