First responders face many challenges in the field: disasters impair communication between responders, create situations where it is difficult for them to see or hear, and make it difficult to collect information about the current status of the disaster. In order to help solve these and other challenges, the US Homeland Security’s Science and Technology division has created the EMERGE Accelerator Programme for Wearable Tech for First Responders (EMERGE).
The EMERGE accelerator is aimed at entrepreneurs who have developed innovative ideas that address the needs of first responders. With two partner companies, Tech Wildcatters and TechNexus, EMERGE helps these entrepreneurs further develop their products and start investable companies by providing mentorship, early market validation, and access to private investment.
Selected from roughly a hundred candidates, more than a dozen firms are participating in the EMERGE accelerator this year. Their ideas range from a triage language translator, to a robotic environmental sensor ball, to a power-harvesting system for mobile devices. A few of these innovative ideas are profiled below.
Mindtalk Technology uses bone conduction technology in mouth guards to allow firefighters, SWAT teams, the Coast Guard, and others to be able to communicate with each other in extremely loud environments where headphones won’t work and outer ear protection is necessary. Originally developed to allow athletes to listen to MP3s and receive radio communication, the mouth guards will be extremely useful in maintaining communication between first responders in critical situations.
Photo courtesy Mindtalk Technology
Select Engineering Services’ Automated Injury Detection System is the first wearable active sensor technology with the ability to automatically summon help without human assistance. It can send notifications when a first responder in injured – even if they cannot send these notifications themselves – which would increase response times and save first responders’ lives.
The TeleSense Sensor Ball can be rolled into hazardous situations ahead of first responders to get a complete picture of the environmental conditions they are facing in real-time. This allows first responders to stay safe and to make smart, informed decisions about the best course of action
Pivothead Wearable Imaging is innovative camera eyewear that has the ability to live broadcast exactly what the wearer is seeing. In disaster situations, this would enable a first responder to show other members of the response team what the situation is, and to receive relevant advice and insights from their superiors or other team members. Such footage would also help decisions makers in the disaster response better understand the actual situation in real time, enabling faster and more informed decisions.
Photo courtesy Pivothead Wearable Imaging
International Thermodyne’s PhelTex (previously called PowerFelt) captures energy from heat and motion, and converts it into electricity. The innovative cloth-like material – whose flexibility and thinness opens up a wide variety of applications – is able to capture both heat and motion energy that occur naturally in our environment. In addition to being able to extend the battery life of portable electronics, the material can also act as a heating or cooling device on demand. This would allow first responders to charge their communication devices and have clothing or blankets that keep them warm or cool depending on what the situation requires.
Photo courtesy International Thermodyne
LanguageMAPS’ 1st Minute App is designed to help first responders overcome language barriers when treating injured people in an emergency. A language barrier causes first responders to miss key information, like pain location and severity, medical history, allergies, or medications. LanguageMAPS’ app allows first responders to get this essential information so they can provide appropriate treatment.