New sensor solutions for fire service and incident response units

At the Institute of Textile Technology and Process Engineering (ITV) in Denkendorf two research projects supported by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research involve quite different sensors. The lead project is called ‘SensProCloth’ and is concerned with the issue of ‘system-integrated sensory protective apparel for the fire service and incident response units’, while the second, related project is termed ‘iBePol’ and is derived from the first as ‘intelligent operational apparel for police and security forces. The overall goals of both projects are to use system-integrated protective apparel to continuously capture and relay information about vital and status parameters, activities, ambient conditions and events in addition to providing emergency services’ communication and data transfer for the fire service and incident response units. Furthermore the sensors should help determine the location of the emergency services in buildings or out in the field and in an emergency enable medical assessment of a condition by the emergency services so that assistance can be provided in time. In addition the communication and monitoring system should help the mobile operational control take decisions.

All the sensors to capture the vital parameters are contained in a t-shirt that is worn against the skin.


Shirt with integrated sensor electronics
Source – ITV Denkendorf

The vital parameters collected include hear-rate / ECG, breathing rate, body temperature and activity level. Ambient temperature on the outside of the clothing is measured to determine the environmental parameters and optical harmful gas sensors are used. These optical signal devices are also located on the outside of the clothing. The risk status is signalled by a three colour LED traffic light and a buzzer. When the completed protective apparel was subjected to the Thermo-Man test, involving eight second exposure to fire at 1,000 degrees Celsius, there was no impairment of any kind to the protective function of the sensor system. After the test all the sensors and LEDs worked perfectly. In a flashover container it was shown that the sensors also measured temperatures over 250 degrees Celsius. Consistent heart rate measurement was possible and evaluation of the subsequent ECG curves showed that the quality of the data was high. Even the steel skin of the container did not impair communication. The ‘iBePol’ project builds on these developments and is intended for use in apparel systems for both civilian and protective use. It is also intended to integrate sensors for hazardous substances.

The Swiss company Forster Rohner is using an age old textile technology; its Textile Innovations division is working with development partners to create highly innovative textiles on ultra-modern, high-tech embroidery machines. They develop and produce functional textiles for their clients based on embroidery technology. Examples are the production of textile-based sensory surfaces, heating elements or antennae structures in addition to the incorporation of LEDs and solar cells. These products are mostly the result of cooperative development and are to a large extent subject to confidentiality; anyone interested is advised to contact the company directly.

Background picture: Source – Interactive Wear

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