Garmin has announced a partnership with the US Space Force. This collaboration aims to explore the potential of smartwatches in assessing the physical fitness of Space Force Guardians. The two-year study was commissioned by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and will examine how smartwatches could replace traditional annual fitness assessments.
The US Space Force has not been around for long. Established on December 20, 2019, it is the newest branch of the American armed services. The aim of its creation was to centralise space operations that over 60 different organisations previously managed. Now, the Space Force unifies satellite management, budgeting, and workforce, focusing on safeguarding US interests in the critical domain of space.
The continuous fitness assessment initiative
The Air Force Research Laboratory formally named the study the Continuous Fitness Assessment (CFA) project. It launched it at a facility near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.
Guardians who opt to participate will be exempt from the standard US Air Force physical fitness assessments. The enrollment rate has been impressive, with over 6,000 of the 8,400-strong Space Force already participating. The team equipped each participant with a Garmin watch.
Metrics and methodology
The CFA project focuses on two primary data points: cardiorespiratory fitness and physical activity. These are metrics that many of us Garmin owners like to keep a close eye on.
According to Dr. James Christensen of AFRL’s 711th Human Performance Wing, these metrics will quickly verify a Guardian’s readiness for duty. The study aims to promote a consistent level of fitness across the force. Anticipated benefits include reduced injury rates and improved operational performance.
The technology behind the initiative
Interestingly, the US Space Force chose Garmin Instinct 2 Solar and Forerunner 55 smartwatches for their extended battery life and superior biometric data capabilities. These devices come with the flexibility to turn off GPS. This is a crucial consideration given past incidents of data leaks from smartwatch users in military settings. Garmin’s Health API and data protocols align with federal privacy and cybersecurity guidelines. Hence adding another layer of trust to their use in sensitive military applications.
Stringent security measures guided the selection, as confirmed by Scott Burgett, Senior Director of Garmin Health Engineering. The wearable ecosystem from Garmin successfully passed a comprehensive cybersecurity and privacy evaluation by the US Air Force, ensuring end-to-end data protection.
Potential for broader application
The AFRL team will evaluate the study’s outcomes to determine the viability of smartwatches as a permanent fitness assessment tool. Success could lead to the program’s expansion into other military branches and potentially include wider Department of Defense criteria like musculoskeletal injury risk assessment. This approach offers the advantage of ongoing fitness monitoring, in contrast to yearly physical evaluations.
Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets
The partnership between Garmin and the US Space Force marks an important step in the evolution of fitness assessment within the military. While the study is still in its early stages, the high enrollment rate and robust security measures suggest a promising future for wearable technology in this specialized field.
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