Tuesday, April 16, 2024

The Smart Suit that Saves Forest Fires Firefighters’ Lives – An International Award-Winning Design by Chula’s Engineering Students

BANGKOK, Sept. 13, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Students of the Faculty of Engineering, Chulalongkorn University have been awarded an MGA Award in recognition of their innovative design for their fireresistant Smart Suit which uses IoT technology for connections and online activations to store data therefore reducing the risks and increasing the safety for firefighters at work in real time.

Over the past few years, many countries in the world, Thailand included, have been faced with the perils of forest fires that have significantly intensified and occurred more frequently than ever. These fires have caused widespread damage to the environment as well as an adverse impact on the lives and the health of human beings and animals.

The swift control of forest fires is therefore most essential – though this is a danger that involves the most risk. Although aerial firefighting is widely used to combat wildfires, we still need to rely on professionals and volunteers who need to risk their lives both from the intense heat and toxic fumes and substances like carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and PM 2.5 dust particles. 

These are the problems that led a group of fourthyear students of the Faculty of Engineering, Chulalongkorn University, or team TAF to jointly develop the Smart Suit innovation as part of an international competition known as the Rapid Prototype Development (RPD) Challenge a multi GNSS Asia programme.”The event saw a gathering of as many as 40 teams of students from universities all over Asia and it was there that the Smart Suit innovation of CU Engineering students garnered the MGA Award. 

Nithi Achalanan, one of the TAF team members told us that “the Smart Suit was developed based on the efforts rendered to put out forest fires in the north of Thailand as well as similar crises in many countries around the world which in many cases led to the tragic loss of emergency respondents. It is hoped that this innovation will be able to reduce the risks and loss involved and play an important part in the efforts to combat forest fires in the future.” 

The TAF team comprises 5 young and dynamic students of Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Engineering. Aside from Nithi, there are also Narudom MeeIm (Electrical Engineering), Nichanant Chunsaereechai (Environmental Engineering), Natapong Intarasuk, and Anuthida Ritthiphan (Survey Engineering), all of whom will be attending this year’s graduation ceremony in October. 

Smart Suit HiTechnology Innovation 

Putting out a forest fire involves very high risks and dangers that have cost lives or led to injuries of emergency respondents caused by a lack of adequate communication among firefighting teams, disturbances in working signals, inefficient protection gear, and faulty management systems. 

“The team was able to gain actual situational understanding in Chiang Dao District, Chiang Mai Province. Through interviews with firefighting volunteers, we determined some serious obstacles in terms of management and safety, and eventually, the Smart Suit was designed in response to those problems.” Nithi explained. 

The design of the Smart Suit innovation is an adaptation of the IoT (Internet of Things) technology, a network of connected devices, and a technology that facilitates communication among the devices and between the devices to the Cloud system by using computer chips and high bandwidth telecommunications. The team chose the Sony Spresense board (a computer board used for IoT) and many sensors for online connectivity, and retrofit them to the original firefighter’s suits. 

Nithi explained the efficiency of the Smart Suit, “We made use of equipment that relied on modern technology that is easy to install and very affordable. Most importantly, the Smart Suit is equipped with a system of data as well as an interactive map that shows the information in near real-time. This provides us with spatial data which can measure the various parameters such as PM 2.5, carbon monoxide, Carbon dioxide, humidity, and temperature that can be used for accurate spatial management.” 

RealTime Warning: A Distinct Feature of the Smart Suit 

Real-time warning helps ensure the safety of the firefighters while performing the task of putting out the fires. 

“What earned us the most points from the judges was probably the heat measurement capabilities,” Narudom, an Electrical Engineering student told us on behalf of his team. “The Smart Suit can provide immediate warning in cases where the temperatures rise above normal levels. In cases where the temperatures rise to the level that could be hazardous, the sensors will give a warning immediately to prevent people from encountering heatstroke. The same thing also goes for carbon monoxide detection since it is a toxic gas resulting from combustion and inhaling or exposing the body to those fumes at levels that are over the limit can result in immediate death. The warnings enable the wearer of those suits to avoid the fumes before they encounter loss or fatality.” 

With the features attached to the Smart Suit, one can detect the location of the firefighters, making it possible for the control center to communicate with them in real-time and help combat problems that might occur immediately, for example, winds changing direction, so that evacuation can take place or orders can be given to avoid certain directions more efficiently. 

Narudom provided us with more information on the Smart Suit’s warning system saying that “the control center can monitor the situation and the data collected by far range sensors and sent via LoRa (a cordless connection for IoT) which also includes the position of the firefighter and the hotspot (the point where satellites detect unusually high levels of heat than the normal levels on the earth’s surface), satellite pictures used to measure the earth and its climate often used to follow forest fires like MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) or VIIRS (Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite). This makes it possible to send out warnings to the firefighters and in cases where the situation is exacerbated then EWS messages (Early warning system messages) can also be sent out.”

Collaborations for realworld rollout of more innovations

We take pride in the fact that the Smart Suit innovation recently won an international award. Yet, this is only the start. As members of the TAF team, the students will be branching off to their areas of interest and expertise. They fervently hope that the prototype they have created can lead to innovations that can be put to use in actual situations of forest fires that now plague us to help ensure the safety and preserve the lives of our emergency respondents. 

Narudom ended with this thought, “The Smart Suit we have developed is still at the stage of a prototype. As students, we could only use the type of technology and equipment that was inexpensive. In the future, if this innovation can be developed for actual use, we might need to update the equipment and technology by increasing the functions that make it even more efficient.” 

The TAF team welcomes companies and agencies that wish to further develop the “Smart Suit” to produce them for actual use to engage in discussions and academic exchange or collaboration to develop the innovation since it is essential to develop innovations to deal with the problem of forest fires at both the national and international levels. 

Those interested may contact the team members directly or via the Faculty of Engineering, Chulalongkorn University at telephone numbers +662 218630910

For the full release and more images, please visit: https://www.chula.ac.th/en/highlight/132255/

About Chulalongkorn University

Chulalongkorn University sets the standard as a university of innovations for society and is listed in the World’s Top 100 Universities for Academic Reputation, in the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings 2021.

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If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Miss Thanita Wangvanichapan at (+66) 2218 3280 or email thanita.w@chula.ac.th

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