Wearable "Flash Sensor" to Measure Heat/Humidity Inside Protective Suits

Wearable “Flash Sensor” to Measure Heat/Humidity Inside Protective Suits

Attention sensor fans! The protective suits worn by Ebola caregivers in West Africa get HOT! The heat and moisture buildup reduce work time to a paltry 40 to 60 minutes per shift. Maker solutions such as this Flash Sensor, prototyped by Kailey Shara, are helping.

Caregivers on the front line of the Ebola crisis are torn between two competing priorities. On the one hand they want to help the sick as long as possible; on the other hand they need to limit their time inside the protective suit. With the buildup of their internal body temperature they get fatigued, their judgement becomes impaired, and eventually they can suffer from heat stroke. The impulse to keep working can lead to bad consequences and the results can be tragic. Mistakes will be made.

Rather than the caregiver managing this for themselves why not reveal their thermal conditions to the people around them? By making this information visible to others, the caregiver community can watch out for one another and keep each other safe. That was the idea at the core of the project.

Nicole Daphne Tricoukes and Kailey Shara

Nicole Daphne Tricoukes and Kailey Shara

The starting point for this project was Carbon Origins’ Apollo micro controller board with eleven sensors, wireless (BLE and WiFi) and a little OLED screen. Since Kailey designed this board she was quite proficient with it. Using Apollo’s temperature and humidity sensors she wrote code to display these metrics on the little 128 x 64 pixel screen. The idea was to slip this into an inside pocket in the suit behind a transparent window so it could be seen outside but still detect conditions inside the suit.

When the caregiver puts on their protective suit is when they would activate the sensor. Under safe heat and humidity conditions the Sensor Flasher would display numbers as seen above while pulsing an audible tone. As conditions worsen in the suit the pulse rate would increase in pitch and frequency. When conditions become dangerous the display would begin to flash alerting the people around them that action needs to be taken. With the Flasher Sensor the caregiver community is empowered to take care of their own.

This is just one wonderful example of what could be done with sensors, actuators and micro controllers to help Fighting Ebola. More could be done to improve conditions with protective suits. More could be done to provide care while reducing direct exposure to the sick. More could be done to remotely measure, collect and analyze patient data. A wide range of problems could be addressed by those with ideas and electronic prototyping skills.

We have less than a week to go in the Grand Challenge against Ebola.

This is a rare opportunity for makers to have significant impact.

Let’s show the world how we can help! #FightingEbola