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Lifting the Fog of War: New High-Tech System Aims to Shed Light on IEDBlasts

GE is helping the Georgia Tech Research Institute develop a wearable wireless network of sensors and computers that could assist doctors in dealing with brain injuries caused by roadside bomb blasts.

The technology, called Integrated Blast Effects Sensor Suite (I-BESS), uses vehicle and body sensors and computer analytics to record and time-tag information like blast force and direction from explosions caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The Army plans to use the information to better diagnose brain injuries and choose the best treatment.

GE’s Intelligent Platforms unit is supplying the Georgia Tech team with a rugged, off-the-shelf computer system the size of a six-pack that can process large amounts of raw sensor data. The system gathers information from accelerometers, pressure sensors and other devices placed on the soldiers’ bodies and inside the vehicle. Such off-the-shelf systems help the Army to reduce development time and risk, and create a robust system that can quickly accommodate new devices and sensors.

The I-BESS sensors and computers have been designed to operate in harsh conditions. They can power through shock waves, vibrations, high G-forces, and extreme temperature swings. The sensors communicate with each other over standard wireless protocols like Bluetooth and RFID. They feed the information into the GE computer.

The system allows the army to capture a holistic picture of the blast impact. “I don’t want this to sound wrong, but the data we collect from these explosions is very important for us to measure how these blasts affect a soldier’s head and body,” Amy O’Brien, a chief scientist at the U.S. Army’s Rapid Equipping Force (REF), told

REF first approached the Georgia Tech Research Institute in 2011. The Army started deploying the first 1,000 I-BESS sensors last year.

This is not the first GE effort to better understand the brain. This spring, GE, the National Football League, and Under Armour launched a $60 million partnership designed to speed up the diagnosis and treatment for mild traumatic brain injuries and stimulate new research and innovation in the field.

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