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  • 2018 Corporate Responsibility Report

Connected T-Shirts save Firefighters' Lives

The development program Connected Things Integrator by Deutsche Telekom's subsidiary T-Systems developed an innovative shirt to protect people in high-risk jobs like firefighting. It tracks the person’s vital signs and also tells the incident commander the location, movements, and recent body orientation of a missing team member. In 2018, the Krefeld Fire Department tested the innovation during a practice operation to experience the opportunities telematics can offer for minimizing the risk in fire-service operations.

The shirt is equipped with a “pod” – a telematics unit located right below the nape of the wearer’s neck. Thin, barely perceptible heat- and sweat-resistant wires run through the fabric in random, meandering loops that allowed the shirt to be stretched and washed. They transmit the firefighter’s heart rate as captured by two sensors on the side of the chest. At the same time, a next-generation accelerometer in the pod detects the firefighter’s every movement. An algorithm combines the rotation and translation of the GPS-enabled pod over six different axes. The advanced mathematics allows the device to track the wearer’s location and movements. A memory chip records the raw data in order to instantly recognize any type of adverse event. A fall, for example, could be instantly reported wirelessly to an IoT platform in the cloud. The platform generally communicates with the Incident Commander’s tablet over the Internet, but also manages the pods and pushes out regular updates to them.

Firefighters respond to home fires in Germany with some 200,000 operations every year and this innovation can mean a significant improvement to the safety of firefighters in life-threatening situations. The Connected Things Integrator will continue to work on developing the shirt further in order to incorporate additional helpful information channels. And if the invention can save just one life, it will already have been a resounding success.