Murphy's Law: Big Brother Is In Your Pants


January 26, 2012: In the late 20th century U.S. Army equipment developers came up with a lot of ideas for new high-tech weapons and gear. One of the most ambitious items was a set of sensors on each soldier that would constantly monitor and broadcast (to commanders and medical personnel) health information (pulse, temperature, blood pressure). This health monitoring system would be made possible by the personal radio each soldier would wear.

The health monitoring sensors were too uncomfortable and fragile to work and the idea was dropped. Now the ideas has been revived because someone has found a way to use smaller and more robust sensors attached to underpants. This is a follow-up to earlier attempts to build the sensors into t-shirts. The first prototypes of the underpants are being built.

While the troops take a dim view of these monitoring systems, health professionals see all sorts of benefits from monitoring combat personnel on the battlefield and in training, in real time. There actually is a medical benefit for this sort of thing, as you can precisely measure the physical limits of troops (individually and in groups) and adjust your recruiting, tactics, and training accordingly.

Of course, you can also ask the troops. This was actually done from time to time over the last 70 years and the infantry kept saying that they were carrying too much weight and that it was poorly distributed. Despite numerous efforts infantry soldiers still carry too much weight, but there are new load bearing packs and webbing that distribute this excessive weight more comfortably. There are also statistics on the number of muscular-skeletal injuries to infantry (from carrying too much weight), as well as heat related injuries. No underpants monitors needed to monitor all these problems and the troops know it. Interestingly, the new monitoring systems will not track how muscles and bones are doing.


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