AI-powered health monitors may boost readiness, Army's next top enlisted leader says
Weimer highlighted a program at his old command that uses health data to help candidates going through the rigorous Army physical tests.
Biometric health data and artificial intelligence may offer the Army new ways to assess soldier readiness, the service’s incoming top enlisted leader said at a press conference Wednesday.
Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Weimer previously served as the top enlisted leader at U.S. Army Special Operations Command. He assumes his duties as Sergeant Major of the Army today, taking over from outgoing Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston
“I'm a tech person, I'm a data person,” Weimer said. “We have to be informed, and that requires data coming in.”
Weimer detailed how he has participated in sleep studies and worn the Oura ring, a wearable sleep tracker.
“I did a sleep study, because sleep is important,” Weimer said. “I need to make sure I'm sleeping to be the leader that I want.”
Weimer also described how USASOC had used health monitoring technology to protect Special Operations candidates during their strenuous selection process.
The command first collected baseline data, then used that information to make decisions about candidates’ health.
“We’re seeing some anomalies on day six of training that aren’t right,” Weimer said, adding that such events triggered candidates being sent to a doctor. The technology may also be helpful in identifying cases of heat exhaustion or underlying heart conditions, he said.
In April, USASOC’s human performance and wellness unit told Defense One they had distributed Oura rings to soldiers to help them better track how much rest they were getting.
Weimer also noted there are similar programs under discussion that could monitor Army aviators’ health.
The Army may also seek to combine artificial intelligence with the data it collects on health, Weimer said: “Artificial intelligence is absolutely going to assist us,”
Still, the incoming Sergeant Major of the Army cautioned that the service must move deliberately when it comes to incorporating data into its readiness assessments, noting that one sleep doctor discounted data from wearable trackers as providing an incomplete picture.
“We have a tendency to want to go really fast. We've got to understand the data we’ve collected,” Weimer said. “What degree can I make decisions off of it?