Clothes say a lot about who we are and display our profession to the world. In times of crisis, they help us identify the people in charge of rescue – the police, EMTs and firefighters who will lead us to safety. These jobs come with iconic uniforms, allowing anyone and everyone to know who they are and what their purpose is.
Clothes are also designed to protect our first responders. The suits that firefighters wear are built to withstand heat, smoke and flame, while police officers often don bulletproof vests, and EMT gear is made to help professionals tend to the wounded. Now, some companies are adding technology to make these uniforms even safer.
Nokia builds a smart jacket
Finnish telecommunications company Nokia, maker of the famously indestructible phones, recently unveiled a new concept it is working on: a versatile jacket enhanced with wearable technology designed specifically for first responders. Titled the CHASE (connected health and safety equipment) LifeTech FR (first responders) jacket, the garment would be suitable for a variety of professions, including EMS/EMT, firefighters and police.
The CHASE LifeTech FR jacket was designed in collaboration with Czech software developer GINA and South Korean fashion brand Kolon. It was created to be both stylish and versatile, and its structure mimics jackets seen on the runway, according to Engadget reviewer Edgar Alvarez. That said, its florescent yellow coloring makes it easily identifiable to other responders as well as civilians. In addition, the jacket has wide reflective strips for increased visibility, and the material it's made from is both breathable and waterproof.
However, it's the wearable tech that makes this jacket truly revolutionary. The CHASE LifeTech FR comes with a number of modular sensors designed to monitor metrics such as heart rate, temperature, location and locomotion. These modules are housed in secure pockets, meaning they can easily be swapped out depending on the wearer's need. As Alvarez pointed out, police and firefighters could wear the exact same jacket, but the former would equip theirs with body cameras and the latter with temperature sensors.
The data collected from these wearables is sent back to GINA and processed in real time, allowing all associated persons to keep track of individual responders. This would bring unmeasurable safety benefits; for instance, monitors could check a responder's breathing and heart rate and warn the individual before he or she undergoes too much physical stress. In addition, GPS monitors could help first responders locate each other if one needs assistance or help groups find a missing person.
While the jacket is still a concept for now, Nokia and Kolon plan to release a full version within the next 12 to 18 months.
Wearables in the working world
Incorporating technology into clothing and accessories isn't new – think of Fitbits and Apple Watches – but the industry is heading in a way many didn't expect. Instead of being dominated by consumers, wearables are quickly attracting the interest of businesses. Much of this interest was driven by manufacturing and mining, which are both extremely dangerous professions.
That said, and as Nokia revealed, wearables can be of great use to first responders. The technology can notice tiny details – both environmental and internal – that responders can't keep track of.
By expanding on this idea even further, wearables within EMT gear can keep civilians and first responders connected 24/7, allowing people to call for help whenever necessary. Chinese tech company ZTE is already working on such a product, according to Digital Trends. Such technology would greatly improve upon current 911 systems, which are limited by poor infrastructure and lack of GPS capabilities.
As wearable technology grows more advanced, we can only imagine what new developments it will bring for first responders.