New wearable sensor technology for Marine Corps Systems Command

A new wearable sensor technology to lighten the load for Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC) was reported by Kaitlin Kelly, MCSC Office of Public Affairs and Communication.

Marine Corps Systems Command’s Marine Expeditionary Rifle Squad Team has developed the “Mobility and Biomechanics Insert for Load Evaluation” (MoBILE) technology in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Lincoln Laboratory to create a boot insert prototype which helps in improving the performance of Marines.

The Mobility and Biomechanics Insert for Load Evaluation (MoBILE) technology is hand-made by the bioengineering staff members at Lincoln Labs for the Marines. MoBILE technology allows you to detect changes in mobility and agility, which helps MCSC to take informed decisions on material composition and format of athletic and protective gear.

“Partnering with MIT has allowed us to create a ground-breaking research tool that will help inform future acquisition decisions and performance of Marines in the field,” said Navy Cmdr. James Balcius, Naval Aerospace Operational Physiologist, and Marine Expeditionary Rifle Squad (MERS).

Since 2012, MERS and MIT are partners. MERS coordinates the integration and modernization of everything that is worn, carried, used, or consumed by the Marine Corps rifle squad. MERS conducts systems engineering, and human factors and integration assessments on equipment from the perspective of the individual Marine. MIT Lincoln Labs is one of ten federally funded research and development centers sponsored by the Department of Defense. FFRDCs assist the U.S. government with scientific research and analysis, systems development and systems acquisition to provide the novel and cost-effective solutions to complex government problems.

MoBILE has flat, scale-like load sensors that are placed within the boot insole to measure the user’s weight during activities such as standing, walking, and running. The sensors are inserted and positioned in the heel, toe, and arch and are capable of capturing data at sampling rates of up to 600 samples per second. When the sensors bend with the foot, the electronics register the bend as a change and send the information back to a master microcontroller for processing.

MoBILE helps the user’s to gauge how they are carrying the weight of their equipment and if their normal gait changes during activity, said Balcius. The sensor data provides information on stride, ground reaction forces, foot-to-ground contact time, terrain features, foot contact angle, ankle flexion, and the amount of energy used during an activity. The sensors provide operational data which helps Marines to gather information on training and rehabilitation effectiveness, combating readiness impact, and routing and mission plan optimization.

“MoBILE has been compared to a force-sensitive treadmill which is a gold-standard laboratory measurement,” said Joe Lacirignola, a technical staff member in the Bioengineering Systems & Technologies Group at MIT Lincoln Laboratory. “Because of the MoBILE high sampling rate, the accuracy does not degrade with faster walking or running speeds. In future, the accurate data helps in providing early detection of injuries, ultimately leading to healthier Marines.”

Balcius said, “In Summer, the MoBILE will be tested in a controlled environment on multiple terrains during road marches and other prolonged training events over a variety of distances”.

“This tool is basically a biomechanics lab in a boot which allows us to gather data at a scale we have not had until now,” said Mark Richter, director of MERS. “The resulting data is used to take decisions that impact the readiness and performance of our Marines.”

More information can be found at: MARINES.

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