Smart shirt

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In an effort to improve safety in the forestry industry, New Zealand researchers are working on a smart shirt that monitors fatigue and dehydration

The smart shirts will constantly monitor parameters such as heart rate and perspiration

All too often we hear about the dangers forestry works face in their day-to-day work, and worse, the serious injuries and fatalities that occur on the job. According to Safe Work Australia data, as of July 8 there had been 17 workplace deaths in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors in Australia this year alone.

Dr Judy Bowen and Associate Professor Annika Hinze, computer scientists at the University of Waikato and Professor Rangi Matamua from the Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Studies in New Zealand are devising a technological way to keep forestry workers safer on the job. One idea being developed is a shirt with sensors that will tell workers when they are becoming tired, or are dehydrated.

With assistance from Nik Jessop from WorkSafe New Zealand, they’ve been holding events in Northland with workers from Lloyd Logging, Johnson Training Services Ltd and Ngati Hine Forestry Trust. These are facilitated by Erina Korahina from the Centre for Health in Tauranga, and involve talking with workers and their families and running design activities with them in what’s called participatory design.

Researchers focused on what information people were prepared to give about themselves to a piece of technology as well as how they would then like to receive information about themselves from it, who should receive it and how often, and then, once the technology became available, how would they want to respond to it and how much detail should the data provide.

"It’s what they’ll be comfortable with, making them understand that it’s different from off-the-shelf measurement devices," says Bowen.

"It’s not like working in a lab. We’re designing for an uncontrolled environment. In the forest the data’s noisy, bits of it can drop out, and people do unexpected or unpredictable things. The technology can break. It’s a big challenge, but it’s a great project because it’s got all these moving parts.

"How do we come up with an alarm that signals ‘you’re tired, you’re dehydrated’ from the combination of streaming data?"

"There’s a lot of complex data processing that has to happen as these smart shirts are going to be worn every working day and will produce continuous data."


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