I remember the day I first heard about “wearable technology.” How cool to have technology in a compact device - this used to be the stuff of childhood science fiction! Today it has become reality. Today wearables technology is everywhere and many are thinking about new and innovative ways to use wearable devices to communicate, monitor social media, play music, and so much more. The most common wearables today are worn on your wrist and have the ability, among many other things, to inform you what your vitals such as pulse rate or will tell you how far you have traveled in one day. Wearable devices give one data and communication capabilities without requiring you to dig in your purse for your phone or reach to your hip and take the phone off a belt clip.
As a volunteer first responder my mind is confounded by the many ways I could use wearable to access important smart device capabilities from my phone. Consider now that manufacturers are embedding sensors in personal protective equipment (PPE) to gather and analyze physiological data. These sensors glean information, providing insights into the physical condition of a first responders such as temperature, signs of dehydration, heart rate, blood pressure, and respirations.* Perhaps one day future smart devices will be connected to carbon monoxide (CO) or wind speed/direction sensors that a responder can access from his or her wrist. For example, wildland firefighters must complete an annual “pack test” to get a “Red Card”. What Joe is wearing a wrist device complete with sensor enabled clothing. As he approaches the second mile, the wrist device warns of a possible cardiac event. The device dials dispatch requesting a paramedic unit to respond. As the paramedics arrive, they bring a Automated External Defibrillator (AED) in the area and the AED begins scanning the scene to find data from the Joe’s wearable device. Once the connection is made between the two devices, key information is sent from the wearable to the AED which will help the paramedics assess and treat the Joe.
Innovations in wearable technologies merging with tools already in use will provide critical information automatically eliminating the sole reliance on a witness to the medical emergency and much more. The future is here and it is exciting!
*Sensors are being designed to be “soft” and will stretch or integration in the firefighters PPE to provide real-time physical fitness assessment.