Pentagon funding to drive wearables innovation forward

The U.S. Department of Defense is providing $75 million to spur flexible hybrid electronics development by a consortium featuring Apple, Lockheed Martin, top research institutions and universities including MIT and Stanford.

Potential innovations could include wearable devices to improve medical health monitoring technologies and personal fitness devices, and boost the variety and capability of sensors already in play for such tools, the agency announced Aug. 28.

The funding for the new FlexTech Alliance, which is supported by more than 160 companies and nonprofits, also includes more than $90 million from academia, local government and industry groups, for a total of $171 million. The institute's work will target stretchable substrates to wearables.

The funding award is part of the Obama administration's National Network for Manufacturing Innovation program, launched in 2012. It illustrates the latest evolution of public-private partnerships between the Pentagon and the tech community, defense officials say.

"We look forward to utilizing future aerospace applications from this partnership in such areas as wearable biosensors, soft robotics and distributed sensors for system health," Eugene Tu, M.D., director of NASA's Ames Research Center, says in a related announcement.

The research effort will take place at the Flexible Hybrid Electronic Manufacturing Innovation Hub in San Jose, California. It is the seventh of nine research hubs planned by the White House to spur U.S. manufacturing, according to an NBC News report.

Apple's involvement is critical given its expertise in wearables and sensor technology, as well as artificial intelligence, reports Computerworld.

As FierceMobileHealthcare has reported, Apple is no stranger when it comes to collaborating with other tech players such as IBM, and working with federal agencies. A Tractica report earlier this year described the Watch as the "hero device" for the wearables industry.

The past nine months has revealed increasing Apple-IBM mHealth partnerships, with the latest focusing on providing healthcare data to Japan's elderly and building apps to help nurses' productivity and boost patient face time.

For more information:
- read the Defense Department announcement
- read the NASA announcement
- read the NBC News report
- read the Computerworld report