WEARABLE COMPUTERS

By Senior Airman Tim Beckham, Public Affairs, 116th Control Wing

Robins AFB, GA 4/21/04 - Aircraft maintenance is about to change because of new tools maintainers will have at their disposal. Workers in a special test program here are beginning to integrate a new wearable computer that can be used across the maintenance spectrum.

Small personal computers, worn either on the chest or hip, are possible replacements for the typical printed manuals. “These integrated electronic technical manuals provide a wealth of information needed for technicians to perform their duties,” said TGSgt Matt Jones, the electronic manual project manager.

“Having these tools at the maintainers' fingertips is actually a virtual office on the flight line,” said Col. Terry Kinney, 116th MXG commander. “It will have much of the same desktop software that we currently use, like e-mail capabilities and the capabilities to identify, order, ship and pay for parts directly from the flight line.”

The computers have an electronic copy of technical orders (TOs) maintainers use to perform their jobs. They will also be able to send video of damages back to the shop and aircraft engineers through a wireless network. “It provides a safer more unencumbered work environment to have the TO at immediate disposal,” Kinney said.

Officials are also looking at another possible test program that will incorporate using a unique-identification system that could be a benchmark for controlling parts inventory - a DOD mandated program scheduled to become effective by 2005.

“Together they have the potential to change business on the flight line,” Colonel Kinney said. “The capability to repair, order, ship and pay for parts on the ramp will significantly reduce the amount of time it currently takes to do the same business. A great spin off is it will reduce the need for human intervention and potential administrative errors.”

The identification system is a Department of Defense-mandated program that goes into effect in 2005. Michael Wynne, acting undersecretary of defense, said, “Our vision for (the system) is to facilitate item tracking in DOD business systems and to provide reliable and accurate data for program management and accountability purposes in our engineering, acquisition, financial, property, plant and equipment accountability.