Technology to Drive Extreme Runtime in Wearable Devices

Navy STTR 24.A - Topic N24A-T014
ONR - Office of Naval Research
Pre-release 11/29/23   Opens to accept proposals 1/03/24   Now Closes 2/21/24 12:00pm ET    [ View Q&A ]

N24A-T014 TITLE: Technology to Drive Extreme Runtime in Wearable Devices

OUSD (R&E) CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Biotechnology; Human-Machine Interfaces; Microelectronics

OBJECTIVE: Develop a software technology to be coupled with an existing hardware technology in the form of a fieldable, wearable device that enables the onboard analyses of sleep and performance indicators that impact militarily relevant performance and reduces both battery consumption and storage requirements.

DESCRIPTION: Wearable devices offer the DoD novel information to support readiness of Service Members, informing health and safety risks [Refs 1-2]. Currently DoD lacks the ability for continuous remote monitoring (e.g. physiological) to inform readiness metrics under austere military conditions due to power supply limitations of commercially available wearable devices. Addressing this gap will support feedback to the individual Service Member for improved individual performance and resilience, personnel wellness across the unit, and ultimately, to inform and support decisions affecting training, readiness, and mission planning [Ref 3].

The objective of this STTR topic is to develop a software application that can be incorporated with existing wearable devices (e.g. Android) to enable continuous remote monitoring in austere military environments. Operational environments that involve movements, such as maritime, where induced environmental motion make detection of activity levels or sleep periods particularly challenging should be addressed in device selection. Devices, at a minimum, should continuously capture heart-rate, heart-rate variability, activity/motion, timing of sleep periods and asleep/awake status across the 24-hour day, for a duration of at least 30 (threshold) or 60 (objective) days without charge.

The software application should provide onboard computing and processing of sleep and fatigue data utilizing emerging commercial applications, such as tinyML, to significantly reduce power consumption and data size. Data should be formatted in a way that can be interpreted and ingested in a database agnostic manner, and support rapid transmission to a local server. Data transmission should be conducted via wireless (e.g. Bluetooth) means. The development of this technology will greatly improve the ability to field wearable devices for long periods of time in disrupted, disconnected, intermittent and low-bandwidth environments; where understanding readiness state is critical, but ability for device recharging may not be operationally feasible.

PHASE I: Define, develop, and demonstrate ability to run software application on a commercially available wearable device that enables initial improvement for reduce power consumption and data size, and a plan for transmitting data wirelessly to local server. Define plan for reaching desired battery life with required data collection (e.g. sleep) measures, and ability to test at multiple milestones within both lab and home/operational environments. Define plan to completely turn off device in emission controlled conditions: manually (Threshold) and remotely (Objective). Phase I will result in a proof of concept for testing/demonstration only, no human subjects testing will occur.

PHASE II: Testing and fielding of software application with at least 50 devices within lab and home/operational environments to support verification and validation testing of power consumption rates, data formatting, and other time synchronization between device and local server. Additional testing for data transfer speeds of sleep start and stop times, and health-related summary and other time series data covering a period of 24-hours to 72-hours between devices and a disconnected database infrastructure. The prototypes applications—that meet the transmission needs, onboard computing, and extended runtimes—will be demonstrated in a military relevant environment. Additionally, the developed application and combined wearable will need to be interoperable with existing DoD wireless infrastructure. The prototype device will need to manage wireless transmission of health and readiness status information over a wireless link while maintaining an extended runtimes; and maintain sufficient on-device memory storage to retain multiple weeks’ worth of summary information, processed sleep and performance indicators, and synchronize the saved information to the DoD support infrastructure. Interface specifications will be done in collaboration with Navy/DoD to define and develop appropriate wireless interfaces in existing data infrastructure. Provide a detailed plan that will outline the verification of the wearable device, it’s sensing capabilities, communication protocol, and validation of the onboard sleep and performance analyses. The wearable device should provide at a minimum but not limited to, heart-rate, hear-rate variability, activity/motion, and asleep/awake health status information. Details of the device requirements will be provided to the Phase II awardee(s). Provide a detailed plan that will occur for testing and evaluation (to include data type, frequency, and structure).

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Integrate Phase II prototypes into deployed Naval vessels and transition finalized product to the Naval Surface Force (SUFOR). Plan for longitudinal evaluation of the Phase II prototype devices in an operational environment. This evaluation will consist of a cross comparison of the prototype function across two (or more) ships of different class and where appropriate include Marines and other service members embarked on warships (e.g., Destroyer vs. Amphibious Assault Ship) across the Operational Deployment Cycle/Optimized Fleet Response Plan Cycle. Outline the ability to mass produce, support, and service the developed wearable devices.

Dual uses in the commercial sector include sporting teams, extreme athletes, and emergency services (Fire, EMS).

REFERENCES:

  1. Fried, Karl E. "Military applications of soldier physiological monitoring." Jour of Sci and Med in Sport, 2018 Nov, 21(11), p.1147.
  2. Stepheson, Mark et al. "Applying Heart Rate Variability to Monitor Health and Performance in Tactical Personnel: A Narrative Review." Int J Environ Res Public Health, 2021 Jul 31, 18(15), p. 8143. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18158143
  3. Saxon, Leslie et al. "A Novel Digital Research Methodology for Continuous Health Assessment of the Special Operations Warfighter: The Digital cORA Study." J. Spec Oper Med., 2022 Dec 16; 22(4), pp. 78-82. doi: 10.55460/4SSJ-AHIB.

KEYWORDS: Physiological monitoring, sleep, fatigue, wearables, human performance, extended battery life


** TOPIC NOTICE **

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The DoD issued its Navy 24.A STTR Topics pre-release on November 28, 2023 which opens to receive proposals on January 3, 2024, and now closes February 21, (12:00pm ET).

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Topic Q & A

1/22/24  Q. Additional Information to this topic Q&A's
   A.
  • The hubs should be hardwired to each other and to a central hub. The central hub is what will be hardwired into the server/database. Hubs should not communicate with each other wirelessly.
  • The only wireless communication should be from wearable device/sensor to the hubs.
  • The hubs should not be reliant upon batteries and should be hardwired to an outlet for power.
  • The subordinate hubs should pull data from wearable devices/sensors and send that data to the central hub for aggregation and upload to the server. The subordinate hubs need not store data.
  • We envision that at a minimum the central hub would have a UI (or hardwired tablet) that would provide status of itself and each other connected hub. The ability to plug a tablet into each subordinate hub to check its status individually to diagnose and resolve any issues is a positive (again, no wireless connection).
  • The hub locations should be expected to be in high density/traffic areas for sailors to maximize data syncing and transfer. These locations will typically include mess halls and berthing areas where10 – 100 Sailors usually eat meals at the same time/same space, but various depending on the ship.
1/15/24  Q. Would a custom hardware design be considered for this topic? It would give us more control over the low power hardware and significantly increase run time per charge.
   A. A completely custom hardware solution that would require novel development, and unaligned with existing available device is not an ideal / desired solution. The goal is to leverage existing devices to the fullest extent possible.

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