Utrecht, The Netherlands, 6 July, 2020 – Elitac Wearables B.V. announced today that it has delivered the first order of Mission Navigation Belts to the Royal Netherlands Army. The Mission Navigation Belt (MNB) allows soldiers to feel waypoint navigation directions through small, quiet vibration motors, located in a lightweight belt worn around the waist. The order is part of a wider initiative by the Netherlands Ministry of Defense to improve situational awareness and survivability through the application of new technologies.
Trade-off between traditional navigation and situational awareness
Traditional navigation compromises situational awareness because it requires soldiers to take their focus away from their surroundings to check screens or maps, or listen to audio instructions. The Mission Navigation Belt solves this problem by conveying navigation cues through haptic feedback and the underutilised sense of touch. This way, it frees up soldiers’ hands, eyes and ears to concentrate on their surroundings.
The MNB was developed by haptic feedback specialists Elitac Wearables in close collaboration with the Netherlands Ministry of Defense. Major Van Veen, of the Royal Netherlands Army Defence Centre of Expertise for Soldier and Equipment, explained: “Modern soldiers have access to incredible, hi-tech navigation systems, but these all require soldiers to keep checking their screens constantly. This makes an already dangerous job even more dangerous because it reduces situational awareness.”
Solving the trade-off
The Mission Navigation Belt was developed to address this problem: “It has proved its value convincingly during field tests: Soldiers reported that they were more aware of their surroundings and found the navigational cues very intuitive. And because it plugs into our own soldier system, there is no learning curve or need for an additional battery. We look forward to implementing this order of belts and investigating other possible applications of the MNB.”, Major Van Veen said. The MNB can be used to navigate on foot and in vehicles both on land and water: Soldiers can change seamlessly from one mode of transportation to another without stopping to navigate.
Merijn Klarenbeek, CEO and co-founder of Elitac Wearables said “After multiple years of joint testing and development with the Netherlands Ministry of Defense, we delivered the first order of the finished product today. The Mission Navigation Belt is fully compatible and interoperable with the VOSS system (the improved operational soldier system developed for the Netherlands Ministry of Defense). Its design really pushes the boundaries when it comes to integrating electronics and textiles, as the belt had to be robust, comfortable, and, most importantly, reliable. The field tests conducted by the Royal Netherlands Army demonstrate that we have indeed achieved that. It is rewarding to think that our wearables will help keep soldiers safer”.
Photo courtesy Elitac Wearables