Human integrated sensor system program

Professor Mark Hutchinson

Professor Mark Hutchinson

Sometimes it is not possible to identify in advance if there are chemical or biological agents present in an area.

This might be due to time constraints or the need for personnel to enter an area not accessible by drones, such as tunnels. Even when advance knowledge is possible, the effects of exposure on an individual can be markedly different depending on their personal biological markers. Existing systems for alerting defence personnel when exposed to a chemical or biological threat rely on time-intensive procedures, such as blood tests. This can mean significant delays for deploying countermeasures, risking mission and personnel health outcomes.

Professor Mark Hutchinson and his team are developing the ‘Human Integrated Sensor System (HISS) Program which identifies changes in an individual’s biology within 15 minutes of exposure. This is the earliest ever warning, allowing people to immediately change their location, protective equipment or behaviour.

Mark explains "We integrate information from the individual’s immune system, changes in their cognitive functions, right through to their specific biomechanical markers, to identify when they have been exposed to a threat and evaluate how likely that individual is to be functionally impaired by the exposure."

"This level and speed of detection allows the team to make better informed decisions about whether to persist with the mission and if so, the precautions needed to reduce the threat or impacts of further exposure."

"The technology we use is based on the precision medicine techniques already used in areas like oncology where they can determine exactly what cancer they’re dealing with and therefore exactly what chemo will work," continues Prof Hutchinson. "You put the two together and recovery rates improve drastically. We’re building on that to provide precision awareness of CBRN exposure. We have experts from immunology, psychology, maths and engineering working on various aspects of this program and the intention is to put the sensor in a wearable device like a smartwatch to allow for maximum usability in the field."

The technology will also be of great value to sectors where workers are regularly exposed to potentially harmful chemicals such as emergency services, mining and agriculture.

Tagged in Operating in Environments Compromised by Chemical Biological Radiological or Nuclear Agents