All SCDF frontliners to get smart watch by 2022; can send heart rate, location and ‘man-down’ alerts
As part of their breathing apparatus proficiency test, Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officer cadets must wear 22kg of bunker gear and climb an “endless ladder” for a certain distance within three minutes.
SINGAPORE: As part of their breathing apparatus proficiency test, Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officer cadets must wear 22kg of bunker gear and climb an “endless ladder” for a certain distance within three minutes.
More than a minute on that vertical treadmill and the cadets start breathing heavily through their bulky oxygen masks. The audible gasps quicken as a distance and time counter at the top of the machine ticks on. An instructor standing behind looks out for cadets who could be overexerting.
A cadet who passes out might eventually be given extended medical leave, affecting his training schedule and output. But the SCDF is looking to change this by introducing a smart watch that can measure a cadet’s heart rate, improving training safety and efficiency.
With the smart watch, instructors monitor cadets’ heart rate using a tablet on top of the usual visual cues, allowing them to intervene quicker when they see signs of overexertion. These cadets can then be sent for rehabilitation earlier, reducing any potential downtime.
“What we envision to achieve is to reduce the occurrence and severity of training-related injuries and get them into the optimal training zones,” said Major (Maj) Hasan Kuddoos, acting head of the responder performance centre at SCDF’s Civil Defence Academy, at a media event on Wednesday (Aug 12).
In operational settings, the smart watch can automatically assign officers to different rosters based on their proficiencies, and provide a summary of the incident on their way there. At the scene, the watch sends officers’ locations to a digital map in real time. Those who get into a spot of trouble can use the watch to send “man-down” alerts.
The SCDF expects all emergency responders, including firefighters, paramedics and hazardous material specialists, to be equipped with a smart watch by 2022.
In the bigger picture, the SCDF aims to use the smart watch to collect officers’ physiological data, like maximum heart rates, to determine the optimal training intensity and tweak standards for different exercises and tests.
The Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX) is conducting a long-term study to assess an SCDF officer’s training load based on the collected data. The data could also help design progressive training with personal targets.
“Everybody can challenge themselves,” Maj Hasan added. “The fit become fitter, and the fitter become fittest. And not formulating just one standard exercise regime for everyone.”
Beyond measuring heart rate, the smart watch can broadcast voice and text messages to disseminate instructions, and use GPS technology to show cadets’ location. The latter helps during outdoor exercises with obstructed views.
During real-life operations, commanders at the scene of a fire, for instance, can instantly know which officers are in the burning building, check their vital signs and see where they are. This was previously done through manual counting and over the radio.
The watch’s “man-down” function enables personnel to send a distress call to nearby colleagues with the hit of a button. This is useful when an officer feels giddy and is about to collapse.
Mr Ying Meng Fai, acting director of human factors and simulation centre of expertise at HTX, said the smart watch reduces the mental workload on commanders and allows them to focus on more pressing tasks.
“You don’t need to keep on tracking the person. It will all be factored into the system,” he said.
Moving forward, the SCDF hopes to improve the watch so it can record more types of physiological data, like blood oxygen, hydration and sleeping patterns. Right now, officer cadets take off the watches and charge them while sleeping.
“(More data) will give us a better prediction of the fitness and recovery profile of each individual,” Maj Hasan said.
The “man-down” function could be improved by tying it with a motion sensor in the watch, he added. This would trigger automatic alerts when an officer does not move for five to 10 seconds.
SCDF officer cadet trainee Shin Won Tae, part of the pioneer batch to receive the watch, said he now knows when to push harder and ease off during strenuous exercises, like the individual physical proficiency test, to achieve better results.
“I think training is done more effectively so that everybody can last throughout the whole course, instead of having unnecessary (drop-out) cases,” the 27-year-old said.
SMART FIRE STATION
The smart watch will play a key role at the SCDF’s first smart fire station in Punggol, slated to be ready in 2021. The watch will be hooked up to an SCDF database containing officers’ skills and biometrics.
This means personnel can use the watch to register attendance and calculate meal allowance, as well as access certain locations at the station without a key or card.
The watch also has the ability to assign an officer to a specific roster based on his or her proficiencies. For example, the watch can assign an officer with a Class 5 driving licence to drive one of the bigger trucks during his duty that day. Officers will also get a message telling them where to go when responding to an incident.
On the way there, they will get a summary of the incident. This allows officers to plan early and mentally ready themselves for what is to come.
The fire station will also have smart glasses that paramedics can put on when attending to medical emergencies. The glasses will send real-time footage to doctors in hospitals who can advise them on managing the incident. The glasses are still at the prototype stage.
NEW PERFORMANCE LAB
Also in the pipeline is a new performance lab at the Civil Defence Academy on Jalan Bahar to improve first responders’ performance and capabilities.
The Emergency Responders’ Fitness Conditioning and Enhancement Lab, co-developed with HTX, is expected to be commissioned in 2021. The three-storey building will contain a simulator, environmental chamber as well as cognitive and fitness facilities.
The lab will become a central point for collection and analysis of physiological data, simulating conditions during real-world operations, and rehabilitation or corrective training.
“We can use it with our full PPE (personal protective equipment) to see how officers walk, how we can correct it and maybe compare different PPEs,” Maj Hasan said.
An environmental chamber can simulate training in different temperatures and humidity, crucial for officers who will be deployed in search and rescue missions abroad.
The breathing apparatus proficiency test will eventually be moved to the chamber so it can be conducted in a setting that replicates the local climate.
“The results that we get here don't only stay at the training institution, it will be brought up into operational responses that we will be deploying in the future phases,” Maj Hasan added.
With a huge amount of data expected to be collected and stored, SCDF said it has implemented “strict controls and protocols” on the use of the smart watches to safeguard the use, collection and storage of the recorded data.
These measures adhere to data security standards adopted by Government agencies, it added, noting that the data will be encrypted for added security.
“For example, only authorised personnel will be allowed to handle the collection, storage and use of the data,” it stated.
“Any officer who misuses the smart watches or the data collected will be dealt with severely.”
SCDF deputy commissioner of future technology and public safety Teong How Hwa said leveraging smart technology is a “key thrust” of its transformation plan.
The initiatives will enable the force to “optimise our personnel’s performance and safety, to deliver our mission of protecting and saving lives and property more effectively in this digital age”, he said.
Editor's note: A previous version of this article said that the watch can assign personnel to different incidents based on their proficiencies. SCDF has clarified that the watch can help in the rostering process rather than in deployment to incidents.