At the Institute of Textile Technology and Process Engineering (ITV) in Denkendorf two research projects are developing sensors for firefighters and incident service teams. The lead project, “SensProCloth,” is addressing system-integrated sensory protective apparel; the second—a related project and derived from the first—is called “iBePol” and involves intelligent operational apparel for police and security forces. The sensors are contained in a comfortable t-shirt that is worn against the skin.
The overall goal of both projects is to use system-integrated protective apparel to continuously capture and relay vital information and status parameters, activities, ambient conditions and events, as well as to provide emergency services communication and data transfer for emergency response units.
Furthermore, the sensors should help to determine the location of the emergency services in buildings or out in the field and, in an emergency, enable medical assessment of a condition to provide timely assistance. Also, the communication and monitoring system should help the mobile operational control make appropriate decisions.
The vital parameters collected include heart 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 signaled by a three-color LED “traffic light” and 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 research is supported by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research.