CMU Portugal ERI VR2Market Creates System for Monitoring Firefighters’ Vital Signs

The Exploratory Research Initiative VR2Market has created a system that monitors first responders’ vital signs, to provide information to the chain of command, allowing a better management and coordination of rescue teams in a safer way, in case of fire and other emergencies.

Measuring the vital signs of firefighters, the level of hydration, stress and fatigue is what VR2Market proposes. The project is being developed within a partnership of research institutions, in the scope of the CMU Portugal Program, that includes the Institute of Systems and Computer Engineering (INESC TEC), the Institute of Telecommunications (IT), the Institute of Electronic and Telematic Engineering of Aveiro (IEETA), the Portuguese company Biodevices and the Institute of Robotics of Carnegie Mellon University (USA).

The VR2Market prototype consists of a sticker body sensor and an apparatus that is placed on the fireman's helmet, capable of measuring, in the event of fire or other emergency situation, vital signs of rescuers and air quality, especially the amount of carbon monoxide and of other toxic gases. This technology makes it possible to provide first aid services in emergency settings.

"Initially it was a T-shirt, but we evolved into a sticker," says João Paulo Cunha, a professor at the Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto and a researcher at INESC TEC, who leads the project. "There is another unit that is put on the helmet and is communicating with the first one, measuring the environmental part. They are two "wearable"devices, the patch for the physiological part and the other for the environmental part."

The adhesive is placed directly on the skin and is prepared to withstand high temperatures, with the help of protective suits that firefighters are required to wear. "The adhesive does not melt, and the body of the firefighters should not register temperatures above 38 degrees at the start, plus the equipment they use tries to keep the body temperature below that number, even when exposed to very high temperatures. So the adhesive is not a problem", said João Paulo Cunha.

The technology has already been tested with the Albergaria-a-Velha fire brigade, a town near Aveiro, and Cruz Verde, in Vila Real. One of the project's researchers, Ana Aguiar, told Expresso that "fire brigades have given us very useful and positive feedback on the project, and this year, in the fire season, these devices will be again distributed to the Albergaria's firefighters, for their use."

Read the Portuguese articles at ComputerWorld OnlinePC Guia Online, (January 25, 2018) i9 Magazine Online (January 26, 2018) Tech em Português Online (January 27, 2018) Bombeiros, (January 30, 2018) Robótica Online (February 2, 2018)