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Electronic Belt Helps Dutch Soldiers Navigate On Foot

July 21, 2020
This electronic belt uses small vibrating motors and GPS to provide foot soldiers with silent navigational cues on land and when walking through water bodies.

The Royal Netherlands Army can now “feel their way around,” thanks to the delivery of the first order of Mission Navigation Belts (MNBs) by Elitac Wearables B. V. The lightweight belt, which is worn around the waist, uses Global Positioning System (GPS) guidance and small vibrating motors to signal waypoint navigation directions to a soldier. The order of belts is part of a wider initiative by the Netherlands Ministry of Defense to improve situational awareness and survivability using new technologies.

The electronic belt conveys navigation cues to soldiers using haptic feedback in contrast to traditional navigation methods checking maps or display screens on computers or audio guidance on communications devices. These traditional techniques can distract a soldier from the mission at hand whereas the MNB allows a soldier to use their sense of touch for navigational guidance and their remaining senses to focus on their surroundings.

Elitac Wearables developed the MNB by working closely with the Netherlands Ministry of Defense. Major Van Veen, of the Royal Netherlands Army Defence Centre of Expertise for Soldier and Equipment, explains: “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.” He added: “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.”

The belt can be used effectively by foot soldiers on land and in water. Merijn Klarenbeek, chief executive officer (CEO) and co-founder of Elitac Wearables, noted: “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.” 

About the Author

Jack Browne | Technical Contributor

Jack Browne, Technical Contributor, has worked in technical publishing for over 30 years. He managed the content and production of three technical journals while at the American Institute of Physics, including Medical Physics and the Journal of Vacuum Science & Technology. He has been a Publisher and Editor for Penton Media, started the firm’s Wireless Symposium & Exhibition trade show in 1993, and currently serves as Technical Contributor for that company's Microwaves & RF magazine. Browne, who holds a BS in Mathematics from City College of New York and BA degrees in English and Philosophy from Fordham University, is a member of the IEEE.

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