Wearable tech set to revolutionise disaster recovery and emergency response

Wearable tech can help the emergency services by freeing up their hands an allowing them to access more information while carrying out essential tasks.

At a recent London event Samsung and consultants Ovum said that the emergency services and healthcare professionals can significantly benefit from the rapidly advancing field of wearable technology.

He said the devices have huge benefits for those in emergency services as they will enable workers to use their hands while also receiving the information they need to know.

Adrian Drury from Ovum, at the Futurescape event, said: “Fire police, rescue, these are the people who are really interested in wearable tech to make their jobs better.”

As an example he said those working in hospitals will be able to benefit from seeing vital patient information, on systems like Google Glass, while still being able to treat the patient.

The potential for using Google Glass and other wearable technology in situations which require a fast, or expert, response is only just being realised.

In recent weeks Google announced a first round of companies which would start to use glass in the work place.

This included Augmedix a company that is teaming up doctors with the headwear to help them see information about the patients in front of them.

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Now BAE Systems has launched new software that can be used with Glass in the event of a natural disaster.

The company has launched a new prototype app that allows emergency workers to collect data and images from an area while they are doing other, more urgent, jobs.

This will allow damage to be assessed and the data collected uploaded to a server which is accessible by those in a command centre.

The technology offers the potential to be able to allow first responders in emergency environment to focus on life threatening issues while also capturing what is happening in the surrounding area.

This may be able to give those who are responsible for co-ordinating a larger response to see the extent of a potential situation and then act in an appropriate way.

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DeEtte Gray, president of BAE Systems’ intelligence and security sector said: “Disasters affecting a large number of people spread across a wide geographical area present a significant challenge for emergency responders.”

Peder Jungck, also from the company, said: “Crowdsourcing enables emergency responders to quickly provide real-time images, video and intelligence back to the command post, so decision makers can effectively determine when and where to deploy resources”.


Image one courtesy of Augmedix


Ultra-thin spray-on solar cells to bring cheap green energy to the masses

Scientists have developed low-cost spray-on solar cells that could result in a dramatic drop in the price of solar electricity.

Designed to be applied using a method similar to car paint, the cells could be easily mass produced, giving solar power the chance of ubiquity. The spray technique also results in very little waste, which helps to keep manufacturing costs low.

If the technique takes off we could see solar cells built into everything from cars to clothes, leading to a move away from centralised power generation.

The cells are made from a rival material to market-dominating silicon: perovskite. Although only recently adopted for use in solar cells, the material is gaining popularity due its low price and energy costs.

“There is a lot of excitement around perovskite-based photovoltaics,” explained Professor David Lidzey, lead researcher from The University of Sheffield Department of Physics and Astronomy.

“Remarkably, this class of material offers the potential to combine the high performance of mature solar cell technologies with the low embedded energy costs of production of organic photovoltaics.”

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The design of the cells is similar to organic equivalents, but with better performance.

“What we have done is replace the key light absorbing layer – the organic layer – with a spray-painted perovskite,” explained Lidzey. “Using a perovskite absorber instead of an organic absorber gives a significant boost in terms of efficiency.”

Although not quite as high as silicon, the efficiency levels of perovskite cells are far better than their organic counterparts.

“The best certified efficiencies from organic solar cells are around 10%,” said Lidzey.

“Perovskite cells now have efficiencies of up to 19%. This is not so far behind that of silicon at 25% – the material that dominates the worldwide solar market.”

At present the team have only achieved 11% efficiency but believe that with further research this can be improved.

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The study itself, however, has moved ultra-thin solar cell technology far closer to mass production.

“This study advances existing work where the perovskite layer has been deposited from solution using laboratory-scale techniques,” said Lidzey.

“It’s a significant step towards efficient, low-cost solar cell devices made using high volume roll-to-roll processing methods.”

Lidzey argued that this solar technology would become increasingly key in power generation.

“I believe that new thin-film photovoltaic technologies are going to have an important role to play in driving the uptake of solar-energy, and that perovskite-based cells are emerging as likely thin-film candidates,” he said.


Images courtesy of Alex Barrows, Lucy Pickford and Jon Griffin via The University of Sheffield.