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Bluetooth receives the draft

The Swedish Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) and Demining Centre (SWEDEC) has deployed Bluetooth technology to improve safety when clearance teams head into war-torn locations.

The Swedish Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) and Demining Centre (SWEDEC) has deployed Bluetooth technology to improve safety when clearance teams head into war-torn locations.

Its EOD Information System (EOD IS) provides positioning information to organisations working to remove mines, unexploded bombs and other devices — around 100 million of which are estimated to be killing or injuring 40 people per day in 90 countries worldwide.

Using EOD IS, surveyors develop digital maps of the location and layout of minefields.

The information is then transferred to a central location and added to the Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA).

Developed by the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD), this provides a database of minefields which is used by over 80% of the disposal programmes in action around the world.

“IMSMA is the bank and EOD IS is the ATM,” says Bjorn Liszka, a technical advisor to SWEDEC.

“IMSMA is housed in a capital city, such as Kabul, while our units are out in the field. Both systems have a common information exchange protocol so we can send our information to them and they can send data to us,” he adds.

After field trials, SWEDEC replaced wires with Bluetooth connections to link its field equipment together, which includes a global positioning system (GPS) unit, laser rangefinder binoculars, a digital camera and PDA.

The group says that, once the Bluetooth connection has been established between the different devices, the transfer of data has proved reliable.

Using the technology means that team members can avoid inputting critical information manually — a potential cause of errors — and cut down on power. “In the field, we don’t want to emit more energy than is necessary,” says Major Per-Henrik Åberg, head of the EOD IS unit.

Physical connections are also more susceptible to harsh conditions in the field. “Using cables worked but they can break and develop wear and tear, so Bluetooth is more promising,” says Liszka.

The main problem the group has found with the technology has surrounded variations in functionality between different platforms.

Currently, SWEDEC uses Hewlett Packard handhelds to act as central units which control the rest of the equipment.

But it is planning to deploy more sturdy devices from Symbol for use in extreme conditions.

The organisation is currently testing the vendor’s PDAs in different locations, including the Western Sahara, Chile and Albania, and plans to deploy them in live environments from February next year.

“Bluetooth is getting pretty mature but we believe that the standard is not fully developed, so that makes it hard to change platforms,” says Liszka. “The Symbol handhelds are more ruggedised but we have to make some software adjustments to make the system work,” he adds.

EOD IS is now widely used throughout Africa and elsewhere in the world.

SWEDEC provides it to the Swedish Armed Forces when they are sent on humanitarian or peace-keeping missions, to demining organisations through the GICHD, and to other governments which have signed cooperation agreements with Sweden, including Singapore, the Netherlands, the UK, Germany, Denmark and Finland.

Countries in which the system has been deployed recently include Liberia, Angola, Lebanon, Iran and Iraq.

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