Blast Gauge began as a collaborative effort among Borkholder’s
team at the Rochester Institute of Technology, the Defense Advanced
Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and ADI. Today, the device is
used by more than 500,000 special-operations military forces from
the United States, Canada, Australia, and the European Union, as well
as by the FBI and police departments’ special weapons and tactics,
or SWAT, teams.
Blast Gauge consists of three ruggedized sensors that soldiers wear
on their helmets, chests, and shoulders. Each includes an ultra-low-power microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) inertial sensor that
captures blast magnitude and acceleration force. Blast Gauge uses the
sensors’ data to measure the blast impact, says Wayne Meyer, MEMS
sensor strategic marketing manager at ADI, who has long collaborated
with Borkholder on the Blast Gauge project.
In September 2016, BlackBox Biometrics rolled out its next-generation
Blast Gauge. The new version includes a low-power accelerometer
designed by ADI that dramatically increases the device’s battery life.
It also allows medical personnel to wirelessly collect blast-impact data
and make immediate decisions based on their ;ndings. Previously,
soldiers used USB ports to manually download Blast Gauge data to
computers, delaying medics’ access to critical information.
ADI and Borkholder have been working together since 2009, when
DARPA granted Borkholder $1 million to develop what eventually
became Blast Gauge. With ADI’s help, BlackBox Biometrics met an
aggressive military deadline, deploying 1,000 units to soldiers in
Afghanistan in just 11 months. BlackBox Biometrics needed an ultra-
low-power high-G inertial sensor to use with military personnel. ADI’s
technology helps Blast Gauge devices capture data about the impact of
a blast on individual soldiers—an impact that often measures between
60 and 120 times the force of gravity, ADI’s Meyer explains. ADI was
the ideal partner for providing that capability because of its expertise
in MEMS sensor technologies, Bolkholder says, adding that ADI also
achieved the ;rst-time integration of three high-performance sensors in
one low-power, wearable, ruggedized device.
ADI continues to be instrumental in helping BlackBox Biometrics
develop additional generations of Blast Gauge, Borkholder says. “The
battery life of the very ;rst Blast Gauge prototype was only about one
month. Now, thanks in large part to ADI’s low-power technologies,
batteries can last up to a year.” That makes a big difference to soldiers
in the ;eld, Meyer notes: “When our system is deployed, they don’t
have to recharge it—which is really important.”
Borkholder predicts that data from the use of increasingly sensitive
devices will reveal the development of long-term neurological disorders
from “repetitive sub-concussive hits,” which are experienced not
only by soldiers, but by athletes and industrial workers as well. ADI
and BlackBox Biometrics have collaborated on Linx IAS, technology
designed to help coaches, parents, and managers share crucial
information with medical professionals to more accurately triage and
treat head injuries.
Meanwhile, Meyer says, ADI and BlackBox Biometrics engineers
regularly exchange ideas not only for new iterations of Blast Gauge, but
for other products as well. That means that plenty of groundbreaking
developments are likely just over the horizon.
To learn more about the collaborative work of Analog Devices, Inc. and
BlackBox Biometrics, visit analog.com or blastgauge.com/about.
A Blast Gauge sensor glows red,indicating
exposure to potentially harmful blast