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When you think of military embedded technology, you may think of some high end FPGA embedded in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology or large racks of supercomputers deep within some command bunker. You are probably less likely to think of the advanced equipment that is increasingly making its way into the hands of individual soldiers on the battlefield. Equipment that is potentially more critical to saving lives than any of the advanced technology presently deployed. One of the most dangerous situations in modern combat is that of “friendly fire”—when soldiers shoot their own through mistaken identification.
A company called Cubic is currently developing a wearable embedded technology called DCID-TALON, which stands for Dismounted Combat ID with Target Location & Navigation. The technology involves a laser scope and retroreflectors placed in the uniforms of friendly soldiers. A retroreflector functions by reflecting any light that hits it back to the source. When a soldier aims his scope at a potential target, an infra-red laser bounces back off the retroreflectors and lets him know that the target is friendly. If no reflectors are present, the solider receives a message in his scope that the target is unknown and therefore potentially a hostile combatant or civilian. This technology represents an advance over the more well known MILES training equipment that Cubic develops, and one that is intended for the actual battlefield.
The DCID-TALON also represents an even greater leap over existing technology for preventing friendly fire which is virtually non-existent. Particularly in environments like mountainous Afghanistan or the narrow urban streets of Iraq’s cities, armored vehicles are less maneuverable, so it’s really on the shoulders of the grunt soldiers to carry out many missions. Hence, all the more need for protecting them from friendly fire incidents.
The technology has a number of exciting potential uses off the battlefield as well. Besides the fairly obvious application in law enforcement, the technology could also potentially be used in hunting gear, preventing hunting accidents. Perhaps it could be used to open your garage without even having to touch a button. It is likely that even if the US military were to not adopt DCID-TALON, Cubic could find a whole host of applications outside of the defense sector.