BAE Systems' Broadsword Spine turns soldier's clothing into power/data hub

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Broadsword Spine allows soldiers to plug their electronics directly into their clothing(Credit: BAE Systems)

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Electronics have become so much a part of modern warfare that batteries are now as important as bullets in the supply chain. And with the average combat pack weighing in at over 90 lb (41 kg), it's also the reason batteries get "lost" with predictable regularity. In an effort to simplify things and lighten the load, BAE Systems has teamed with Intelligent Textiles Limited to create Broadsword Spine – an electronic textile device incorporated into a soldier's clothing that acts as an invisible data network and power supply by replacing wires and cables with conductive fabrics.

Broadsword Spine is a harness that is integrated into articles of the soldier's combat dress, such as the vest, jacket, or belt. The device includes a battery pack that rests in the small of the back and a series of conductive fabric conduits with eight USB ports that provide 180 watts of power and data links.

The system is designed to be simpler and less cumbersome central systems hub that replaces today's tangle of cables and battery packs. In addition to having a lower profile, BAE says that it can provide an estimated 40 percent weight savings. It's also designed to be easy to recharge from vehicle charging points as well as being more flexible, durable, and water, fire, humidity and shock resistant.

Broadsword Spine meets the British Ministry of Defence's Generic Soldier Architecture Standard and the partner's also see it as having applications in fire and rescue services, and law enforcement.

"Broadsword Spine will deliver a lightweight, cable free and better alternative to existing systems," says Paul Burke, BAE Systems Defence Information and Technology Director within Military Air and Information. "It is the first product of our partnership with ITL and uses its revolutionary e-textile allowing power and data to move through fabric. It will be more flexible, robust, and lighter than the heavy, unwieldy harnesses which are currently used. Broadsword Spine offers an open architecture, meaning it could be used to power communications used by anyone from a soldier on the battlefield to a first responder called to an emergency."

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