Soldiers have always had a problem with powering their equipment and with the increasing need for battery-powered kit, BAE Systems has been working on a potential solution. Say hello to Broadsword Spine.
The idea behind Broadsword Spine is to make it simple to connect and charge powered devices - that might be anything from small portable computers, to all manner of communications equipment, or cameras and torches.
Broadsword Spine provides networked clothing using smart textiles. Rather than using wires, it uses conductive fabrics instead. Typically, the it would offer a number of connection points spread around the wearer's body, using a secure but quick-to-release system.
The advantage of using conductive fabrics is being able to integrate it into clothing, such as a jacket, vest or belt, meaning there's no need for trailing wires that can get caught when moving around in an operational environment, like through buildings and in and out of vehicles, but it still remains flexible and waterproof.
The vest itself has no battery power - you have to connect batteries to some of the points as a power supply, but you can then connect your devices to the other points. The hardware behind Broadsword Spine then smartly manages the devices and the power connected to it.
One of the huge advantages that this brings is that you only need one type of battery. Currently there are different types of battery for every type of device, and the idea of Broadsword Spine is that everything is using the same connections, so you clip on the battery and they might then power your GPS and your radio, for example.
Taking it further, rather than disconnecting batteries from each different piece of equipment, you can quickly change batteries connected to Broadsword Spine and be on your way. Or, if you're in a vehicle, you could connect yourself to the vehicles power supply to recharge – as we saw it, the vest was plugged into the wall.
The connection points all work on a USB 2.0 standard, so highly compatible with a range of technologies. On the example we see here, there's a Samsung smartphone integrated as a controller, as an example of how a simple app could be used to manage the vest and all its connected devices.
At the moment Broadsword Spine is in testing and development, but could be powering soldiers in the not too distant future.