Australian Firefighters Ingest Data-Transmitting Pills When They Go To Work

Shaunacy Ferro reports that Australia is monitoring firefighter’s biodata on the job:

A new data-delivering pill could help firefighters monitor their reactions to heat stress, a new trial in Australia shows.

Heat stress can lead to various problems for firefighters working in hot environments, including unconsciousness and cardiac arrest, and the standard method of measuring core body temperature through the ear is not always effective enough. Firefighters working in extreme conditions during Australia’s 2009 Black Sunday fires struggled with heat stress in spite of hydration procedures, signaling a need for greater research into how to manage it.

In a trial, 50 firefighters from Victoria’s County Fire Authority swallowed an Equivital EQ02 LifeMonitor capsule to monitor their body’s reaction during a training exercise.

While they evacuated 20 people from a burning building, a thermometer and a transmitter within the pill sent data to a device on the chest, which then transmitted vital data to an external computer on the firefighters’ skin temperature, heart rate and respiration rate. If their core body temperature is increasing too quickly, firefighters can be removed from the fire to a rehabilitation area to cool down. After a few days, the pill is expelled from the body the good old fashioned way.

Read more on PopSci, while I ponder how the ability to monitor biodata can be abused/misused when the firefighters are done working and are on their own time.

In the U.S., the emphasis has been more about tracking firefighters’ location in buildings so that they can be precisely located if they collapse in a building or get lost. That technology, the GLANSER system, has been piloted in the past year and is a removable system that raises no privacy concerns as far as I can determine. I wonder how much would be added to its expense to monitor biodata, too, for fire departments interested in obtaining such real-time data.

Another device discussed in the PopSci article will likely raise some privacy concerns here in the U.S., however: the Feedback System, an ingested chip system that can relay information about the medication you’ve taken through your phone’s Bluetooth. More on that in another post in the future.

h/t, Rebecca Herold

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