Velocity by Booz Allen

Physiology Meets Mission Operations Wearables, sensors, and AI make it possible for elite athletes to incorporate individual analytics on heart rate, respiration, sleep cycles, and more to predict outcomes and to personalize training for and recovery from high-intensity activity. But the physical and mental load experienced in the military has few parallels with competitive sports. For example, while athletes can use periodization to fine- tune their training and peak for a specific function or event, warfighters—and especially unconventional forces—need to be ready to perform whenever and wherever the mission calls, often with little to no advanced notice or rest and recovery time between deployments. Similarly, athletes play on a known field and face known adversaries, while warfighters operate in unknown areas, in unfamiliar conditions, against anonymous enemies. What’s more, warfighters face unique military-specific stressors, such as the possibility of having to take actions that may cause serious injury or death. Over time, these stressors may exact a profound toll on the warfighter’s cognitive, physical, and emotional well- being. The impact of this toll on the warfighter’s career, life, and family cannot be understated. By quantifying these types of stressors through biometrics, the field of human performance applied to the unique conditions of the military impacts both personal and mission success—extending an individual’s fitness for duty and for their return to civilian life. The delivery of biometrics through human performance platforms creates a snapshot of the warfighter’s complex physical and psychological system. But for a complete picture, the military has another valuable tool: mission analytics, which are specific to the management and execution of the mission. Applied to warfighters, mission analytics evaluate the effectiveness and precision of operational activity. For example, in modern military training, warfighters and their weapons can be outfitted with sensors that provide data about what soldiers are doing at any given moment, such as where they are looking, whether they are pointing their weapons in the right direction at the right time, or how they follow doctrine in activities such as room clearing. Together, integrated data from mission analytics and human performance offers the military a powerful new way to enhance training and accelerate readiness (see Figure 1). And it empowers individuals to make changes to improve their own readiness with data-driven feedback. Here’s a basic example: A marksmanship trainer can evaluate an individual’s shooting technique through observation but cannot see what hidden factors might be influencing poor performance. But integrated data may show that although an individual’s technique is good, their pulse, blood pressure, and breathing rise when they squeeze the trigger, leading to underperformance. With this data, the trainer can work with the individual on controlling their heart rate and respiration, paired with proper marksmanship, to hit the target.

Figure 1: Human performance and mission analytics together are a force multiplier

This integrated analysis can also be used in environments that are adjacent to the battlespace. For example, a special forces unit could use integrated analytics to support the performance and well-being of operators who disseminate critical, sensitive analytics to the field in real time. Imagine that these operators sit behind a desk for 8 to 10 hours each shift and are under extreme pressure to perform consistently and rapidly, especially during periods of high-intensity operations and cognitive overload. Data from wearables can capture a range of biometrics from these operators, including heart rate variability (HRV; see sidebar below) and sleep quality. By combining these metrics with mission analytics, leaders can track not only the accuracy of the decisions and work itself, but also understand how operators are functioning based on reaction time, working memory, and overall resilience. With this information in hand, units can better support operators with training and education for more consistent, controlled, and resilient performance. However, the benefits of combining mission analytics and human performance go well beyond individual readiness and recovery. Elite tactical units can be thought of as complex adaptive systems that work together to carry out the mission. In such a system, outcomes can be nonlinear with respect to the number of people on the team. When faced with unexpected adversity or the loss of teammates, members of high-performing teams improvise and adapt to overcome. Their collective output can exceed all expectations. Such outsized team performance requires everyone to perform at the peak of their potential. Advanced analytics is the key to unlocking this force multiplier effect.

Human Performance Analytics: Physical And Mental Readiness Heart rate Heart rate variability Respiration Sleep quantity and quality

Mission Analytics: Operational Effectiveness Shooting accuracy Eye tracking Operational speed Reaction time

Integrated Data for Accelerated Readiness Pinpoint performance challenges (physical vs. cognitive vs. technique) Analyze large datasets to improve training types and methods

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Heart Rate Variability: An Indicator of Resiliency and Readiness When it comes to strengthening resilience and accelerating readiness, HRV is an especially important metric that provides insight into how a person’s stress response affects their performance on and off the battlefield. HRV is the variation among a set of temporally ordered inter-beat intervals from a continuous measure of heart rate. A high HRV is often associated with high resiliency and the ability to reach peak levels of physical and cognitive ability and quickly return to baseline, whereas low HRV is often associated with low resiliency and can be related to poor physical conditioning, high cognitive stress, illness, pain, fatigue, and overall lower health. Tracking their HRV with wearable technology, warfighters can learn self-regulatory techniques and habits to activate their parasympathetic nervous system and increase their HRV, such as managing their energy, incorporating tactical pauses in operations, and using breathing to refocus on their assignment. When HRV is correlated with other information such as nutrition, physical fitness, and sleep data and analyzed over time, the combined measures provide insight into the quality of sustained operations and can indicate when someone might be on the verge of overtraining or burning out.

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