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Smart clothing with improved comfort and safety for future firefighters

Temperature is a major challenge in numerous professions – thermal comfort and occupational safety. For example, in emergency missions of fire and rescue services as well as in mines and construction sites, the working conditions often cause extreme physical strain.

Smart clothing future firefighters
Figure: To increase the thermal comfort of the wearers, the Smart Clothing 2.0 research project also developed a new heat control concept, which adjusts the heating autonomously.

Working in hot situations without wearing appropriate protective clothing and equipment often causes high heat stress. It will be perfect if the amount of such stress could be monitored in real-time during the performance of different work tasks.

To solve this researchers and companies together developed a wearable technology solution for firefighters. It allows real-time monitoring of heat stress, thus improving the occupational health and safety in challenging temperatures.

The Smart Clothing 2.0 project, jointly sponsored by Business Finland and 10 Finnish companies and research organizations, has developed in association between VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd and various companies a new method for monitoring the development of the Physiological Strain Index in real-time.

The new method has been tested at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in Oulu and at the Emergency Services College in Kuopio. Based on the first tests, it would seem to offer a very promising tool for commanding rescue missions and enhancing the occupational health and safety of firefighters.

Pekka Tuomaala, Principal Scientist, VTT

“The new method has been tested at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in Oulu and at the Emergency Services College in Kuopio. Based on the first tests, it would seem to offer a very promising tool for commanding rescue missions and enhancing the occupational health and safety of firefighters,” says Principal Scientist Pekka Tuomaala from VTT.

The present smart clothing market already offers different garment solutions with heating elements, but they all need manual adjustment of the heating.

To increase the thermal comfort of the wearers, the Smart Clothing 2.0 research project also developed a new heat control concept, which adjusts the heating autonomously − in accordance with the wearer’s personal needs.

This autonomous control system takes account of the ambient temperature and the wearer’s own heat generation, the individual body composition and the level of activity at any given time.

In smart clothing, individual heat control can also be used for improving the thermal conform of such groups as people working outdoors, athletes, children and people engaged in outdoor activities.

The participants in the project aim to bring the benefits provided by smart clothing to the consumer market and make them available to various users.

“We are very excited about the results of the Smart Clothing 2.0 project. The project enables the implementation of major new smart clothing concepts and gives us an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the wide range of applications enabled by Suunto’s open Movesense sensor platform. We are currently negotiating with several customer companies about productization projects that would allow us to put our research results rapidly into practice,” says Terho Lahtinen, Senior Manager, Future Concepts, from Suunto.

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