A new generation of protection in hazardous environments

2 mins read

Cambridge-based wearable tech specialist Equivital has unveiled its next generation of body-worn sensors – which it describes as a major advancement in worker protection.

The range offers greater flexibility for organisations seeking to reduce mortality and injury from avoidable causes, such as heat stress and falls. The network of sensors can be scaled up or down, depending on the level of threat.

The modular sensors have been designed to simplify deployment of Equivital's Black Ghost physiological monitoring system to military, first response and industrial customers. The range includes a high-performance, ATEX-approved smart watch which can be used in hazardous environments. The first of the easy-to-use, data-rich sensors is due to be launched in January.

From soldiers and firefighters to oil and gas maintenance workers, Black Ghost is described as offering a lifeline for those whose job puts them at risk. It acts as an early-warning system for dangers like heat stress and extreme fatigue, with a body-worn monitor keeping track of heart rate, respiratory rate, body temperature and activity.

The user-friendly Black Ghost application displays and contextualises each individual's key physiological data in real time back at base – enabling timely intervention before there's a problem.

At the heart of the Black Ghost system is a unique heat stress algorithm. Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) can increase the risk of heat stress, but its effect on cognitive function means individuals often fail to recognise the danger signs. Black Ghost provides a valuable 15-minute projection, warning as an individual approaches critical levels of heat strain.

Now, as well as its LifeMonitor body-worn smart sensor in a belt, Equivital is going to offer a choice of modules with different levels of protection.

A lightweight, rugged smart watch sensor might be all that's required. Or if a chest belt gets in the way of a safety harness, for example, it could be replaced by a 'smart' shirt to provide physiological data to the level required. For military personnel operating or training in the desert – where the risk of heat stress injury is high – the FDA- and CE-cleared LifeMonitor belt with ECG-grade heart monitoring remains the highest performing option and provides the greatest possible protection for the wearer.

"We know heat stress and fatigue are very real risks for those wearing PPE, so accurate physiological monitoring is vital," said Anmol Sood, CEO of Equivital. "The Black Ghost system acts as your eyes and ears to protect your team from these hidden dangers. Our new modules are designed to make it as easy as possible to deploy the appropriate level of protection at the right cost."

The Black Ghost system is designed to provide actionable data, at the right time, without overloading the user with too much information. Alerts and thresholds are tailored to each individual and medics are notified, via secure messaging, if a breach occurs. Exclusion zones can be created, with alerts triggered on entry, exit or proximity. The system can also integrate third-party sensor and web data such as radiation dosimetry, noxious gas levels and environmental information – providing even greater situational awareness.

The result is that critical decisions about safety and work/rest duty cycles can be based on up-to-the-minute knowledge of the condition of each member of a team.

For the military, the contextualised data provided by Black Ghost can benefit both training and deployment. As well as monitoring individuals in real time, the system can be used to review the effectiveness of training schedules – and highlight soldiers who may be at greater risk of heat-related injury in the future.