Vibrating with the special forces

Communication more than ever goes hand in hand with discretion, as demonstrated by the FEELTACT vibrating communication bracelet presented by the Novitact SME at the Special Operations Forces Innovation Network Seminar (SOFINS) being held this week at the Souge military base near Bordeaux in western France.

The FEELTACT technology is based on a vibration/light signal combination which aims to take advantage of “the exceptional aptitude Special Forces have to learn new types of communication,” explains Vanessa Caignault, co-founder of Novitact. Nearly 1,000 FEELTACTs have recently been sold to security forces, and the system has recently drawn the attention of the COS French special operations service, which is preparing to evaluate a first batch.

FEELTACT, or when communication rhymes with discretion


Launched in 2013 in partnership with the Technological University of Compiègne north of Paris, the FEELTACT technology has been industrialised for more than a year and a pre-series has been deployed for two and a half years. This intelligent bracelet has already proved its relevance at numerous public events, including the Cannes festival, which helped validate the concept and the development of scenarios in which it might be useful.

The question underlying development of the FEELTACT bracelet is closely linked to special operations: how to communicate with discretion? Thus, exit sound, the seven Novitact employees logically focussed their efforts on other senses, namely touch and sight. FEELTACT therefore relies primarily on a series of vibrating elements and a module that lights up. Both the intensity, the succession of vibrations and the choice of the colour and sequence of the light signal correspond to a precise message. This allows the operator to “set a given button, which will send a given signal to a given team member in a given format,” explains Caignault. In other words: the panel of alert signals is practically unlimited.

Novitact currently claims it has created no less than 50 different actions, triggering, for instance, the sending of automated text messages or e-mails containing accurate geolocation data. The set is operated from a mobile application, compatible with iOS / Android, which is particularly intuitive and fully configurable.


The iOS / Android interface of FEELTACT


But why a bracelet? In addition to ease of access to information, “the wrist is one of the most sensitive parts of the body,” remarks Caignault, adding that Novitact is seriously considering the integration of its technology in a glove, even a sock.

The data stream operates first by Bluetooth between the wristband and the associated smartphone “within a radius of 30 to 40 meters,” explains Caignault, then by Internet between the various operators. FEELTACT is rechargeable with a single Micro USB port for up to 36 hours of operation.

The only small issue for the moment is that FEELTACT is not yet immersible, but Novitact confirms it has begun studies to make it so. Following the recent order from the COS, Novitact will also adapt the software so that it can function with the secure communications networks of special forces.

Far from seducing only the COS, FEELTACT is also believed to have attracted the attention of the elite, special units of the French police force and gendarmerie, including, not surprisingly, the RAID and GIGN.