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Australia Medicine Technology

Tiny Pill Relays Body Temperature of Firefighters In Real-time 67

pcritter writes "Australian firefighters are enlisting the help of tiny pill to battle fires. In a training exercise, 50 firefighters swallowed the LifeMonitor capsule which is equipped with a thermometer and a transmitter. The pill transmits data to a device worn on the chest, which also gathers data on heartbeat, respiration and skin temperature. This data is relayed in real-time, allowing better management of heat-stress during firefighting. Victoria's Country Fire Authority trialed this new mechanism when they found that the standard measurement of temperature by the ear was an ineffective indication of heat-stress. The pill is expelled naturally after two days."
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Tiny Pill Relays Body Temperature of Firefighters In Real-time

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  • In Australia heat stress is usually cause by drinking warm beer.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 18, 2013 @04:15AM (#42623827)

    is recovering the re-usable pills after they are expelled. Seems the firefighters are reluctant to see them recovered and even more reluctant to be in the second round of trials for some reason.

    • by sharkey ( 16670 )
      Based on several movie clips I ran across on the Internet, there's a probably a big market in Germany for disposal of the used devices.
  • Great news. (Score:3, Funny)

    by marevan ( 846115 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @04:27AM (#42623855)
    During rescue-academy studies there is a heat stress test, which is to test the students capabilities under physical workload and lots of heat. They used to use anal thermometers, which were real pain in the ass. So this is great news!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Do they contain Everything Killers?

    • Hah, I pretty much came here to see if someone else made that connection.

      If they deploy this tech more broadly in the future there's going to be an apparently random, small group of people who are somehow very hesitant about it.

      • by s.petry ( 762400 )

        Depends on what you know about the pill. If you don't believe your precious government would give you bad things because 1) you get to be an unwilling guinea pig or 2) they don't like you or 3) you are of the race/religion the people in power dislike.. then you are an ignorant fool.

        Does that mean these sensors would fall into the same category as LSD? Well, you can bet your ass smart people are skeptical and want to know as much as possible about the sensors prior to swallowing them. And you start read

  • by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @04:32AM (#42623873) Homepage Journal

    This being the CFA I assume the pills are expected to be reused.

    • But according to Victorian Pharmacy, it used to be happen that a pill was made of heavy toxic metals and then swallowed to purge the system. Clear out the old tubes. The pill was pretty expensive but since it was metal it didn't dissolve or anything... and since swallowing it... shall we say... loosened stuff up a bit. It came out... ready for re-use... in the family.


      Then again, re-usable pill VS traditional method of getting a reliable core temperature reading. Can you guess how that is done?

  • Old News (Score:5, Informative)

    by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @04:48AM (#42623935) Journal

    Nothing about this technology is new.
    Professional and rich college sports teams have been using it since the early 2000s to monitor potential heatstroke in players during summer practice and the pills cost $30~$40 each.

    I believe it all started with NASA wanting a good way to get actual body temperatures of astronauts.
    At the time, the only accurate measurement technique was a thermometer in the butt...
    And that isn't a method that allows you to gather long term data.

    FYI - Those in-ear thermometers and IR skin thermometers are only useful as indicators. Their readings cannot be considered representive of your core temperature.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 18, 2013 @05:10AM (#42624005)

    When I was a rookie I almost went down several times with heat exhaustion. Had other friends get cut off from their exit by a collapse during a training burn right after fire academy, fortunately only a few hand and neck burns which required skin grafts.
    An Aliens style readout next to the pumper engineers pannel with telem from firefighters and a IR helmet cam feed would save many lives.
    The greatest OTJ killer of firefighters is actually stress heart attacks, much of this stress is from overheating.

  • With this technology, I'm expecting that raw firefighters must be rare :)
  • As a structural firefighter in the US, I fail to see the need for this other than in some specialized testing to help make better procedures.

    Our work is not like the movies. Yes, we wear heavy gear. Yes, it's quite hot in that gear even if there is no fire on a warm day. Inside a several hundred degress (F) building, it does it's job quite well. (Wool may be used as an insulator -- though I don't think so -- but only inside the carbon fiber and gnomex coverings which are far more important).

    We go into a building wearing an air bottle good for about 30 minutes for most people in good shape. A bit less if you're working hard, a bit more if you stretch it. After about 2/3 of that time (20min) a low air alert vibrates the mask letting you know it's time to leave. You have ten minutes before it becomes a problem.

    When we exit the building we go immediately to a "rehab" area manned by EMT's. We take off our coats (on a winter day you can see the steam coming off us) and are required to drink a 20oz bottle of water. The EMTs take heart rate and blood pressure readings as we enter rehab, and before we have to pass their requirements for health and safety -- basically that both heart rate and bp are dropping back toward normal readings.

    Nothing in this pill is going to change the requirements of the job. Carrying more stuff just makes the job harder. We're already laden with 80 pounds of stuff entering the building.
    • by CaptainDefragged ( 939505 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @07:42AM (#42624445)
      In this instance, the study is with the Country Fire Authority in Victoria, which means they are mostly fighting bushfires dressed in overall type materials. Whilst they do structural fires too in the rural areas, wildfires are their bread and butter. A good example is today, where it's been 45 to 47 degrees celcius most of the day with less than 20% humidity. Add to that strong, searing hot winds. They are there for hours, days or even weeks in some cases They look something like this: http://images.3aw.com.au/2009/02/09/375630/1fire424-3-424x283.jpg [3aw.com.au]
      • We have that kind of firefighting here as well, though different gear is worn. Typically thin gnomex overalls covering regular clothing is sufficient (helmet and gloves of course). That photo looks like structural firefighters attacking a brush fire -- probably a relatively small one or in a particularly dense area of population. You don't fight big forestry fires with water. You fight them with shovels (and where possible bulldozers) and back-fires. You use the shovel (or pulaski tool) to create a fire break around the fire. When a wild fire is said to be "50% contained" it means that they've been able to get a fire break around 50% of the fire. Usually, the fire itself will create its own break on the upwind side as it buns away from the wind, while the firefighters have to carve one out ahead of the fire and to the sides.
    • Well... lets compare australian firefighters with american firefighters shall we.

      I can see that you Americans might be worried about extra weight. :p

      But serious, you are talking about a building fire. What about a forest fire? One that may last for days, even weeks? I do not know much about heat but I did do my tour in the snow and frostbite was far easier to spot then gradual undercooling but frostbite doesn't kill you. Undercooling does. Your outside can withstand a huge temperatu

      • by CFD339 ( 795926 )
        Not comparing a 20 minute house fire. We have many hours (and days -- though not where I live) forest fires in the states as well. They wear different gear, and yes, it's much lighter (as I said in my post, if you read it) but they're doing a lot more work over longer periods. They also have regulations as to how long and how close they are to the fire, and emergency procedures if they're overrun.
    • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @09:36AM (#42624855)

      Procedures is exactly what this is about. How long can a firefighter work before suffering the effects of heatstress is the question. Humans themselves are horrendous judges of their own health while under the influence of adrenaline. I remember one fire (industrial firefighting) where one of the guys was on cooling duties on surrounding equipment. The main fire took ages to get under control and the hoseteam on cooling duties suddenly had one guy just drop the hose and pass out. No warning, no requests for a break, just splat. He was incredibly red and we rushed him to hospital.

      Heat stress.

      • by CFD339 ( 795926 )
        Part of this is a cultural problem. Firefighters have this tendency to not want to take the needed break. They don't want to seam weak, and they don't want to miss out on the work the train so hard to do but get to actually do so infrequently. We've worked hard in our department to break the habits of many that try to skip rehab and just go grab another air bottle.
        • Here. Here. I know exactly what you mean. Even though I'm only on a backup firefighting team I have nothing but respect for even the smallest of the firefighters and rescue crew that I have worked with. I have no experience what it is like fighting a building or bush fire, but from what I have seen in the industrial firefighting it takes balls unseen in the common people to take a hose and start stepping closer and closer to a leaking burning gas fire.

          We don't have too much of a problem on the backup team w

  • In Neil Stephenson's novel Anathem, the main characters take a pill that supposedly monitors their temperature, turns out to be a small, remote triggered, neutron bomb.

    I might hesitate to take such a pill. You never know what else it does....


    • Wow, you're a real asshole. I'm sure fucking glad that A) I've already read Anathem and B) I caught the foreshadowing for that detail when I read the book so it wouldn't have mattered anyway.

      But seriously, you need a lot more space before a spoiler, and to bury it in a lot more text so that it doesn't leap out at people. I literally read the text of your comment by accident while trying to scroll past it, before I even saw the title of the work you were discussing.

  • this happened sometime in 2012, nothing to see, nothing to see, or just wait a day or two for the clang in the toilet bowl.

  • I find this whole idea hard to swallow.

  • I read about college football teams using these in very hot weather about a year or two ago. To prevent guys dying of heat stroke.
  • Nice use of the passive voice. I imagine this process won't feel so passive in the first person. Neither will recovering it from the other "expelled" material.
  • Was watching Surviving the Cut, season 2 episode 1, and they mentioned that during some of the more arduous swims in open water, they have the service members swallow this pill that transmits core body temp, heart rate etc so that the medics can monitor them while they complete their mission.
  • Good news, everyone! It also comes as a suppository!

  • Swallowing pill tech. I'd like to see all of this much more assessible and cheap. Ideally I'd like to see people taking it into their own hands or using a 3rd party just for sealing the units. You can get a swallowable pillcam - very useful for checking gut health. You should be able to do it yourself if you want to with buyer beware - no doctor.

    How's about a crowd funded pillcam... under the guise of use for industrial inspection applications.

    The difficult part is the sealing yet maintaining a clear view.

Thufir's a Harkonnen now.