A MUCH-DELAYED DRDO TECH COULD HAVE SAVED LANCE NAIK KOPPAD…
A remote health monitoring smart vest for soldiers has been on trials since 2004-05; it could have instantly relayed information about survivors following the February 3 avalanche that buried the soldiers
A crucial wearable sensor product using sophisticated technologies deve-loped by a lab under Def-ence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) could have saved the life of Lance Naik Hanumanthappa Koppad – and may be some others of his team too – who was buried under tonnes of ice 35-feet-thick for six days following a deadly avalanche that entombed the Sonam Post they were guarding on Saltoro Ridge on Siachen Glacier on February 3.
But the product, known as the wearable physiological monitoring system (WPMS) – or simply the ‘smart vest’ – conceived in 2004-05 is still undergoing field tests today despite over a decade of development and trials at various stages, scientists from Defence Bioengineering & Electrome-dical Laboratory of the DRDO.
The scientists refrained from disclosing where the WPMS was being field-tested, but “If the WPMS was used on these soldiers, we could have definitely been able to save (at least some of) them,” said M Anandan, joint director, DEBEL, deducing that if Koppad had survived six days buried under 35 feet of snow, there could have been others too who had lived after the avalanche.
The WPMS is a crucial technology which is embedded in a vest worn in direct body contact. It is embedded with an array of sensors, each connected to a central processing unit to allow specialists based at a faraway station to remotely monitor the health and fitness aspects of each of the soldiers posted in remote border areas.
Each soldier wears a smart vest so that specialists at the base station, hundreds of kilometres away, are able to monitor each one independently and simultaneously.
The WPMS is designed using a microcontroller. It is interfaced with wireless communication and global positioning system (GPS) modules. It monitors and issues real-time signals pertaining to electrocardiogram (ECG), photoplethysmogram, body temperature, blood pressure, galvanic skin response and heart rate of each soldier.
DEBEL scientists said that among all these, the photoplethysmogram, the galvanic skin response, the heart rate and the GPS-supported geo-locator could have instantly alerted the specialists at the base station that something has gone wrong – and precisely where under the snow – immediately after the avalanche.
The scientists explained that the photoplethysmogram (PPG) noninvasively screens and relays in real-time valuable information about the performance of each soldier’s cardiovascular system. It detects anomalies by illuminating the skin with a light from a light-emitting diode (LED) and then measuring the amount of light either transmitted or reflected to a photodiode attached to the vest.
The galvanic skin response (GSR) detects a change in the electrical properties of the skin in response to stress or anxiety; and can be measured either by recording the electrical resistance of the skin or through weak currents generated by the body in such circumstances.
“The GSR and PPG could have instantly relayed clear signals about each soldier’s condition – whether dead or alive, and if alive then in what condition,” said the DEBEL scientist, who did not want to named.
The search and rescue teams could have been immediately deployed as the WPMS would have informed the base station that Koppad was alive. The WPMS could have also instantly relayed whether the others were alive in the hours and days after the avalanche.
“In fact, we could have had accurate information about how many of the ten had survived immediately after the avalanche; we surely could have instantly known that Lance Naik Koppad was still alive under the icy rubble,” said a senior DEBEL scientist.
Instead, they had been all ‘declared confirmed dead’ on February 5. It was during the exercise to retrieve the bodies on February 8 that they discovered that Koppad was still alive when the first search & rescue team reached the site using life-detecting equipment.
The site itself was located under the humungous rubble of ice and by receiving radio signals emitted from the operations communication sets, which the soldiers on duty atop Siachen are ordered to keep on precisely for such emergencies.
The WPMS was conceived a decade ago. It has been successfully tried at some undisclosed private hospitals in the city as part of the first stage of trials in the mid-2000s, following which it entered the field trial stage.
The WPMS has yet to be inducted into Indian Army; but as DEBEL scientists say, the system could be found most valuable for soldiers posted in harsh environments such as the Siachen Glacier.
Source:- Bangalore mirrior