A fatigue detector for mining workers

May 25, 2010 Technology No Commenti

What at first sight looks just like your ordinary baseball cap, might actually save lives among those who, for their work, are engaged in conditions of extreme stress and heavy fatigue, that is, inside the tunnels of a mine.

Developed in Australia, where incidents among miners and truck drivers are unfortunately quite common even in our technological era, SmartCap is designed for truck drivers who carry material to and from the mines, and on the inside it houses an array of stress detectors, that is, small sensors which, without using a gel but rather by means of contact with the human hair, are capable of assessing the level of fatigue and strain suffered by the brain.

The brain waves picked up by the sensors are read and transmitted through a Bluetooth connection, and the relevant data is displayed on a screen inside the truck and on a computer at the main base, in order to enable the driver or his boss to take the appropriate security measures before having unpleasant consequences.

Thanks to its convenient location inside the cap, this technology is absolutely not intrusive, avoiding problems at an emotional level for the drivers who might feel a bit like a guinea pig or under surveillance.

On the contrary, during the test phase (after the project started in 2008), this system has received a very favorable feedback from the drivers it has been tested on, with a long line of volunteers who happily gave their consent to try a new tool which could dramatically improve their working condition. Therefore, such a similarly enthusiastic response is also expected by the time it will be launched on the market, at least in Australia.

Defense from chemical attacks comes from your mobile phone

May 25, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Modern mobile phones are always smaller, and packed with features and functions which make them very different from the first generation of mobile phones, heavy and used only to call or send messages. Modern smartphones are intelligent devices that allow us to take our office with us, along with all features we need for our work even when we are not in the office.

For those who are not working in an office or as managers, but as military personnel, and are engaged in first line combat in hostile areas, the functionalities of a “normal” cellphone may not be so necessary, while they could be very interested in the result of a research project carried out by the US National Security Agency, in cooperation with San Diego-based Rhevision Inc.

This research project is working on a sensor that would detect toxic gas, made up of a silicon flake which changes its color when it detects certain chemical agents. Inside the chip which houses the flake, there is a microcamera, smaller than the tip of a pencil, which capture the image of the color and displays it on the phone screen.

In order to analyze color shades, which can determine the kind of chemical agent encountered, the project is using a super macro lens, developed by Rhevision, of liquid consistency which allows it to rapidly change its shape and its focus.
By teaming up several flakes capable of detecting different chemicals, it is possible to recreate some kind of “nose”, to be placed on a mobile phone for instant detection of chemicals or toxic gases.

This sensor might turn out very useful not only for military personnel caught by a chemical attack, but also, once the sensor is developed properly, for firefighters who may be able to detect the presence of the deadly and odorless carbon monoxide during a fire, and don a gas mask before it’s too late.

A GPS based rescue system to save a life in danger

May 25, 2010 Technology No Commenti

As explained in our previous post, the GPS network now gives the opportunity to take advantage of an extreme precision in locating places, people or objects.
One of the most useful applications of the GPS network is called DASS, which stands for Distress Alerting Satellite System, that is, a system, managed by NASA, which quickly identifies the position of people in danger, thus reducing risk for rescuers and dramatically increasing the odds of a successful rescue operation.

This satellite rescue system, since its inception approximately 30 years ago, has saved over 27000 lives. In its latest version, it will be possible to identify much faster the exact origin of an alert signal sent by a plane, a ship, a car or a truck connected to the satellite network, thus immediately sending a signal with the position to rescuers such as firefighters, first aid or police forces.

In fact, by using the higher precision provided by the GPS network, DASS will be able to determine the signal’s origin with an accuracy of up to 1cm, thus saving time which, in these occasions, might literally save lives.

Furthermore, the DASS is currently using a network of satellite orbiting at lower heights than the GPS, and are therefore able to cover a smaller portion of Earth, and the alert signal might be picked up with a potentially deadly delay. With the constant coverage provided by GPS, the alert is sent out in real time and with absolute precision, an improvement which is being evaluated also in other countries, for example in the European Union, where the same system should soon be introduced also on the Galileo satellite network, and in Russia and China, for a life-saving worldwide cooperation beyond ideological or political barriers.

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