Kiwi technology helps miners

By Grant Bradley

Monitoring gear developed in New Zealand is being used to help doctors assess the vital signs of the miners trapped in the Chilean mine.

Zephyr Technology began developing smart sensor fabric harnesses to monitor the wearer's physiological status in a Pakuranga garage seven years ago and the equipment is now used by US special forces troops, Swat teams and firefighters.

It has provided harnesses to the 33 miners trapped for more than two months, the first of whom are due to be hauled to the surface later today in a special rescue capsule.

The company now has its headquarters in Maryland in the US but still does research and development and some software design and manufacturing in this country.

Vice-president of marketing Asher Gendelman said BioHarnesses were measuring the trapped miners' heart rates, breathing rates, skin temperatures, vertical positions and activity to look for signs of stress.

"They're wanting to make sure everyone's staying nice and calm, they're staying fit and nobody's getting out of kilter."

The monitors use Bluetooth to transmit the data to a monitor on the surface which is being assessed by a sports physician.

The miners have been required to do an hour of exercise a day to help ensure they are staying healthy and not gaining too much weight, given the tight dimensions of the rescue capsule.

New Zealand diplomats in Washington and Chile helped put Zephyr on to Chilean authorities soon after the miners were found late in August.

The company was set up by Brian Russell, who mortgaged his home to start the business after working for Fisher & Paykel and Nokia UK.

Funding of $300,000 from New Zealand Trade and Enterprise helped the company expand overseas.

The monitors sell for $2000 to $2400 each and can deliver vital sign information from up to 64 people to one remote point. Besides the US, they have been sold to the British and Australian military, Gendelman said.

- NZ Herald

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