A collaboration between two North Wales-based companies has been credited for developing the next generation of high-tech lifesaving firefighting technology to be used across the globe, with their revolutionary wearable thermal imaging and heads-up display system.
For the last twenty years, firefighters have used handheld thermal imagining cameras to navigate through perilous smoke filled environments. Now, thanks to the advancements made by Flintshire-based ESTnet members Taylor Dowding Innovation (TDI) and Design Reality, today’s rescuers are set to benefit from a wearable in-mask alternative that provides real-time thermal imaging at a glance.
Named Scott Sight TIM (Thermal In Mask), the technology integrates a lightweight camera and microdisplay directly into a firefighter’s respiration mask to enable wearers to locate victims quicker and detect and avoid areas of extreme heat, which could potentially ignite.
Currently, the thermal imaging technology available to firefighters exists as handheld devices. The task of miniaturising this to create an intuitive wearable device fell to the specialist electronic product design experts at Taylor Dowding Innovation.
The company’s chief executive officer, Ben Dowding, said: “This technology is the culmination of a challenging and exciting period for us. The initial brief was daunting to say the least, creating an innovative solution that could be relied upon in the most hostile environments, but we were confident it could be done.”
Mr Dowding continued to explain that creating Scott Sight required more than simply reducing the size of the existing technology, he said: “Every aspect of how this product would be used had to be considered. Ensuring that firefighters have real-time footage available at a glance, while keeping their hands free required a totally new approach.
“We knew that an in-mask display was going to be an industry first – we have now made this possible. In addition, we needed to make the thermal imaging technology smaller, communicate wirelessly between the units while ensuring that we were developing a product firefighters’ could depend on.”
The lifesaving tech was developed on behalf of one of the world’s leading manufacturers of personal protective equipment, Scott Safety, the life safety products business of Tyco International. Working to develop a new technology which would also be manufactured and launched in the U.S also presented unique challenges.
Nick Taylor, chief technology officer at TDI, said: “Transitioning from a working prototype into volume production is never a straight forward affair, especially when your client and their manufacturing partners are in the U.S. Regular calls and detailed planning ensured that everything ran smoothly, despite the 3,000 miles between ourselves, Scott Safety and the contracted manufacturer. Happily, the product was approved by all the relevant bodies at first submission.”
Taylor Dowding Innovation is a member of the ESTnet (the technology network for Wales). Commenting on the Welsh innovation that made the Scott Sight system possible, ESTnet managing director, Avril Lewis, said: “The Scott Sight project exemplifies the fact that Welsh companies are at the fore of developments in the global technology industry. The pioneering innovations created by companies like Taylor Dowding Innovation are pervasive, they underpin many sectors, and they are attracting the attention of some of the world’s largest companies.”
Scott Sight was officially unveiled at the world’s largest gathering of firefighting professionals, the FDIC International Show in Indianapolis. The system is now available to buy in the USA and is expected to be available in the UK and Europe later this year. Speaking at the launch event, Jeff Emery, director of global marketing with Tyco's Scott Safety business, said: "This enhanced capability is the direct result of a need expressed by firefighters to have thermal imaging technology that's more accessible and easier to use….
"Tyco has invested heavily in developing innovative solutions for the fire services, reflecting our deep commitment to the firefighter community. It's personally fulfilling for the Scott Safety team when we can introduce advancements like Scott Sight that will better protect the firefighters and enable them to work more effectively in challenging environments."
Photo: Left to right; Brian Doyle, Ben Dowding, Mike Stirling, Nick Taylor, Tom Szczuka