A construction hard hat that incorporates a carbon monoxide sensor has won an award for its inventors at Virginia Tech University.
The wearable computing system could save the lives of construction workers, say the developers, recipients of a Best Paper Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) Conference on Automation Science and Engineering.
The team calls carbon monoxide poisoning a "serious lethal threat" in both residential and industrial construction. The danger stems from the build-up of exhaust from gasoline-powered hand tools in enclosed spaces.
How it Works
By integrating a pulse oximetry sensor into a construction helmet, the researchers were able to monitor continuous and noninvasive blood gas saturation levels, effectively preventing the deadly danger that carbon monoxide poisoning poses to industrial and residential construction workers.
Virginia Tech Ph.D. candidate Jason B. Forsyth, of Durham, NC, fits a wearable computing system on a helmet to protect construction workers from carbon monoxide poisoning. The research has captured an engineering award.
Testing found that the technology could worn wearers of impending carbon monoxide poisoning with a probability of greater than 99 percent, according to an article from Virginia Tech.
Ten Virginia Tech students participated in the study on the university campus by mimicking tasks construction workers would perform while wearing the helmet. (The helmets used a prototype for monitoring blood oxygen saturation so that the students weren't actually exposed to carbon monoxide.)
Because oxygen and carbon monoxide differ only in the number of wavelengths of light used, the test would prove feasible for monitoring either gas, said the team.
Researchers chose to install the wearable computer in a helmet to achieve a design that is worn year-round and could demonstrate comfort, usability and feasability.
"This helmet is only a first step toward our long-term vision of having a network of wearable and environmental sensors and intelligent personal protective gear on construction sites that will improve safety for workers," the researchers wrote in their report.
"While this helmet targets carbon monoxide poisoning, we believe there are compelling opportunities for wearable computing in reducing injuries due to falls, electrocution, and particulate inhalation, as well as workers on foot being struck by vehicles," they wrote.
The paper explaining the research, "Feasibility of Intelligent Monitoring of Construction Workers for Carbon Monoxide Poisoning," was written by Jason B. Forsyth, a Ph.D. candidate in computer engineering, as part of his master's thesis; his adviser Thomas L. Martin, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering; Deborah Young-Corbett, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and a member of the Myers-Lawson School of Construction; and Ed Dorsa, associate professor of industrial design.
The award is being presented this week at the 2013 Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) Conference on Automation Science and Engineering in Madison, WI.