Emergency crews could start getting messages from their jackets
By Ben Coxworth
April 22, 2014
It's important for firefighters or members of disaster response crews to stay in touch with one another during operations, which is of course why they carry two-way radios. Researchers from Norway's SINTEF group, however, are developing a system that could help even more. It allows users to receive and read text messages hands-free, via their jackets.
The prototype jacket, developed in a collaboration with students from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, has electronics sewn into it, including a narrow LCD screen on the sleeve. The idea is that all members of a rescue crew will be wearing the jackets, which will be in wireless contact with one another, and with the team leader.
When that leader sends a message out from their phone or computer, the jackets receive it, and alert the wearers by activating a buzzer in the collar. The users then look down at the screen, where they can read the message as it scrolls across.
While a smartphone could serve the same purpose to a limited extent, firefighters likely wouldn't want to dig out their phone and hold it up every time they received a message. Additionally, particularly in the case of disaster sites, mobile networks might not always be available.
The SINTEF jacket instead utilizes a private Wi-Fi Direct system, in which a single message is relayed from jacket to jacket, as long as they're no more than 50 meters (164 ft) apart. The technology was originally developed using web-based social media platforms such as Facebook to share the messages, which could still prove practical for other applications.
So far, however, it's still not possible for jacket-wearers to respond to messages, or to send them to one another.