U.S. backs research into smart shirts for emergency responders

The U.S. government is funding an Internet of Things (IoT) project that is developing sensor-based smart shirts for first responders.

Fed Tech Magazine reports that the Department of Homeland Security is bankrolling research into wearables that can track the health of firefighters and other emergency crew in near real-time.

See also: Canada’s health wearables coming in from the cold

The initiative brings together two Canadian IoT startups as key proponents of the project, Hexoskin and SensorUp.

Technology from almost 40 other IoT device makers is also involved in the system that allows first responder monitoring with just a one-second delay.

The project will extend the current functionality of Hexoskin’s smart shirt that monitors the health of the wearer. This connected clothing is unique in that it uses sensors to track cardiac and respiration rates without requiring the user to wear equipment on the head or face.

“SensorUp has developed a monitoring platform, and we’ve worked with them because they use our shirts for vital-signs monitoring,” said Hexoskin CEO Pierre-Alexandre Fournier.

Meanwhile, SensorUp is working to overcome a key problem often afflicting IoT technology, namely the creation of a centralized platform that brings together data from myriad devices.

Numbers of apps and numbers of sensors can’t be equal

It is seeking to do this through an open-source cloud-based platform that will allow the monitoring and sorting of complex data from various sources.

“Our vision is to make the IoT more open and interconnected,” said Steve Liang, SensorUp’s CEO. “Right now, the number of apps is equal to or larger than the number of sensors. That is ridiculous, especially for first responders, who need to see everything at a glance.”

Hexoskin is one of the startups that has transformed Montreal into a hotbed for smart clothing innovation. Its CEO sees the DHS project as a forerunner of future wearable applications for health monitoring.

“IoT-connected objects will be part of the technology we use to be in contact with health professionals on a daily basis,” said Fournier. “We see the future of health as being a lot more decentralized and personalized, and we’re excited to be part of this.”

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