Wearable Tech World Feature Article
September 03, 2015

The Pentagon Teams Up With Several Top Companies to Create Wearable High-Tech Gear

In a prepared statement last week, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said, "I've been pushing the Pentagon to think outside our five-sided box and invest in innovation here in Silicon Valley and in tech communities across the country. Now we’re taking another step forward."

Secretary Carter is referring to the fact that the U.S. government is working to create relationships with the private sector in which both the Department of Defense and a private consortium known as the FlexTech Alliance, will enhance the U.S.’s standing in next-generation bendable and wearable electronic devices.

The FlexTech Alliance is described as being devoted to fostering the growth, profitability and success of the flexible and printed electronics supply chain. A wide variety of applications can take advantage of this new class of electronic intelligence. FlexTech Alliance offers expanded collaboration between and among industry, academia and research organizations for advancing flexible, printed electronics from R&D to commercialization.

The U.S. Department of Defense is forming relationships with Apple, Boeing, Harvard University and other organizations, 162 to be exact, to develop flexible electronics and sensors that could be placed in uniforms or inside ships and aircraft.

Toward this end, the Obama Administration will establish a new flexible hybrid electronics manufacturing innovation hub in Silicon Valley. As part of the plan, a consortium called the Flexible Hybrid Electronic Institute will work on using 3D printing to build bendable, thin electronics that could match the contours of a person's body, as well as military vehicles.

The long term objective is to hopefully use the technology and incorporate it into soldiers’ uniforms as health monitors. In addition, this type of technology can be used in compartments of ships and aircrafts and used to measure structural integrity in real-time.

According to Secretary Carter, the U.S. government is contributing $75 million over a five year period. The companies will be managed by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, which will contribute an additional $90 million, with the money expected from local governments the total will come to $171 million.

This is neither the first time that the Pentagon has looked to Silicon Valley, nor will it be the last. The manufacturing innovation hub will be headquartered in San Jose, California, in the heart of Silicon Valley. The hub is designated as being part of the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit — Experimental (DIUx).

Supposedly, the purpose of the DIUx is to develop new and reinforce existing relationships in the private sector. They are also tasked with scouting for breakthrough and emerging technologies, in essence, they function as a local interface node for the Department of Defense.

In a statement, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said, "Secretary Carter is demonstrating tangible progress in building relationships with Silicon Valley, which he believes is necessary to help the U.S. military remain on the cutting edge well into the future. The public private partnership he is announcing at Moffett Field will benefit both the future warfighter and customers of a range of U.S. companies, helping the U.S. maintain leadership in manufacturing and innovation for years to come."

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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