North Wales tech firms develop wearable tech for firefighters

Two North Wales-based companies have developed a wearable thermal imaging and heads-up display system that’s poised to revolutionise firefighting tech.

For more than 20 years, firefighters right around the globe have relied on handheld thermal imaging cameras to navigate through smoke-filled environments.

Now, thanks to advancements by Flintshire-based Taylor Dowding Innovation (TDI) and Design Reality, this technology is being turned into a wearable alternative to provide real-time thermal imaging at a glance.

They’ve created a device called the Scott Sight TIM (Thermal In Mask), a lightweight camera and microdisplay built directly into a firefighter’s respiration mask letting wearers to locate victims quicker avoid areas of extreme heat.

Designing and developing this technology has been immense work for the companies involved. The task of turning the tech into a wearable solution fell to a company called Taylor Dowding Innovation.

Its CEO 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.”

“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 potentially lifesaving tech has been developed for personal protective equipment maker Scott Safety, which is a subsidiary of Tyco International, and is set to be launched in the US.

Nick Taylor, chief technology officer at TDI, added: “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.”