With Army app, units won't have to SWET water needs

Researchers from the Army and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have created an Android smartphone app that can help soldiers and commanders with what is sometimes a tricky problem—making sure they have enough water to carry out a mission without lugging around too much water.

Army Soldier Water Estimation Tool

The app, which goes by the name SWET, for Soldier Water Estimation Tool, anticipates the needs of both individuals and units, taking into account factors such as the type of activity planned, environmental conditions, clothing and the duration of the mission.

"Water is a huge logistical problem for training and field missions," Dr. Nisha Charkoudian, a research physiologist for the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM), said in a release. "Obviously, planners do not want too much, but having too little can lead to serious problems. Dehydration exacerbates symptoms caused by heat and altitude exposure, and makes a lot of things worse, including the ability to perform physical tasks in hot and high-altitude environments."

Commanders have for years planned their expected water use with a paper-based system of lookup tables, which has been steadily refined by USARIEM, but there was a growing demand for an easy-to-use digital solution. Charkoudian worked with researchers from USARIEM and MIT to develop the app, which she said will likely be available on the Army’s Nett Warrior platform within a year.

On an individual basis, SWET uses a biophysical and physiological sweat prediction model combined with simple user inputs on activity, clothing and weather to return an estimated water requirement, in liters per hour. For units, it has a “Mission Calculator” that estimates the total water requirements (in liters, canteens or gallons) for a given mission, depending on the type of mission, its duration and the number of soldiers involved.

Charkoudian said SWET has undergone some limited user testing at the Army Mountain Warfare School in Jericho, Vt., with positive results, and that she’s looking forward to more feedback once the app is fielded. If it proves successful with the Army, she said, it could also be useful in other fields, such as disaster relief and in sports.

"People want apps; that's what they are excited about,” she said. “It's something everyone can relate to."

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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