A system patented by Sandia Laboratories in 1997 to locate personnel exposed to radiological, chemical or other toxic agents is to be commercialised by Washington, DC-based Gentag for non-military use.
The original Sandia system comprised a small microprocessor-based monitor with an associated RF transceiver, chemical sensor and a built-in power source that can be worn on clothing.
In use, the RF transceiver on the unit conveys both distance and hazard information from the person wearing it to a separate base station.
The system, which has already been field tested, allows people to be located over distances of up to 19.3km -- with a potential geolocation accuracy of 91.44cm. In addition to its range, the technology can also detect people either inside or outside buildings.
Dr Mike Lovejoy, who was on the so-called 'radar responsive tag development team' at Sandia, will now work on the commercialisation and miniaturisation of the technology with Gentag.
Dr John Peeters, the founder of Gentag, sees the potential for the device in a number of different applications, including the emergency location of small children in cities or amusement parks, patients or doctors inside hospitals, firefighters and other people in high-risk jobs, and elderly with dementia.