The Mission Navigation Belt (MNB) 2.0 is a follow-up project of the MNB 1.0, that focuses on total integration of all electronics into a garment that is suitable for military conditions.
Within the MNB 1.0 project, Elitac developed a shirt to provide users with intuitive information in critical situations. Information is provided directly to the skin by using small vibration motors – keeping hands, eyes and ears free. The Mission Navigation Belt contains 8 vibration motors that are placed around the torso in order to provide information regarding direction or communication.
The first set of prototypes was successfully tested with a group of Dutch Infantry Soldiers in multiple scenario’s during day- and nighttime. As a result, the Royal Netherlands Army wanted to continue the developments of the MNB with a focus on further integrating all electronics into a garment that could withstand military conditions and washing.
“It is a real pleasure to work with Anneke. She is committed, has an entrepreneurial mindset and is a master in rapid prototyping. Her commitment, vision and drive accelerate product development.”Merijn Klarenbeek – Director of Safety and Defence – Elitac B.V.
The field-tests at the end of the MNB 1.0 project pointed out that the use of vibration electronics can be beneficial to the soldier to receive discrete information during complex scenario’s. However, the MNB 1.0 garment was not yet able to work standalone, since it was dependent on the smartphone for route calculations and GPS information. Also, the smartphone was connected through a cable (to reduce wireless traceability) which was found inconvenient by the users.
The MNB 2.0 project focuses on embedding all electronics such as the processor, battery, GNSS (GPS) into the garment. This process led to multiple challenges in all aspects of the development.
My role within this project is the development of the garment, sizing, material selection, electronic component placement for optimal comfort, integration of electronics, optimizing the accompanying app and preparing all accompanying accessories such as manual and communication means.
In order to ensure the best fit for the military user, as well as to optimally use the electronics it was necessary to develop our own garment. The iterative process, going to multiple phases of pattern drafting and mockup testing with end-users finally led to a fit that was fulfilling all our needs.
Large arm holes allow for full range of (arm) movement, even with bulky chest muscles. Next to this, we created the garment in such a way that there is enough pressure on the vibration motors in order to feel them – yet there is still enough elastic material to be able to accommodate for different waist circumference within one size.
Furthermore, we have closely studied pressure points from e.g. backpacks or ballistic vests as well as heat buildup while performing tasks. This “discomfort” map has been one of the starting points for the placement of the electronic components.
Products that are used in a high pressure environment such as for a soldier, require flawless integration within normal routines. After creating various storyboards and identifying required interactions, we started designing the different functionalities in the shirt and smartphone GUI. Within this process we had two focus areas: On one hand simplifying the steps to a bare minimum yet keeping full functionality and on the other hand enhancing intuitive use and preventing failure.
Wearable Development, Integrating Stretchable Electronics, Prototyping, User Experience (UX), Demonstrator App, User Testing