Monday, April 30, 2012

E-textile saves life in Norway

Fishing is one of the riskiest jobs : thousands of fishermen around the world lose their lives every year, mostly by falling overboard and drowning. How could be possible to integrate electronics into the protective outfit to make all the emergency tools wearable and impossible to forget ?

At Trondheim’s swimming pool scientists are testing the first prototype of a smart safety vest, developed as part of a European Union research project. It has sealed sensors that trigger a number of life-saving measures in case of an accident. The design took a lot of research. The sensors need to be correctly placed to distinguish a submersion into the sea from an accidental splash of water or rain, and the inflatable “lung” has to keep the head safely above the water even in strong waves. The smart outfit has an automatic radio transmitter that sends a short-range distress signal to the receiver unit onboard. That allows the system to stop the boat, alert the crew and send the coordinates to the rescue services.

Hilde Færevik, Coordinator for the SAFE @ SEA project, demonstrated the vest: “You can see here on my colleague – he has the lung integrated here – it’s expanded, and on the top of the lung you have the “man overboard” alarm. Of course, a main topic of the project has been how you can integrate this electronics into the material.” To ensure better functionality, comfort and safety, the fabric for the next generation of fishermen’s protective clothing needs to be reinvented. Will it be possible to use these technologies for life jackets and avoid tragedies such as the Concordia ?

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