Alpha prototype overview

In the next video, you can see the overview of the phases that the alpha prototype passed through – choosing optimal placement of the electrode, as well as the electrode design, defining initial electrotactile coding schemes, technical validation of the system, testing the system on human subjects, obtaining end-user feedback and last, but not least, deploying the system in a relevant environment, on Kopaonik mountain at an event hosted by Serbian Mountain Rescue service, on which you can read more about here.


Alpha prototype field trials

End of June 2021 marked a major milestone in the SIXTHSENSE project. The alpha prototypes were tested in the field trials with several first responder groups in the Šapjane training centre of the Primorje and Gorski Kotar Fire Department.

The consortium took full advantage of having first responders from three fire brigades and one mountain rescue service available and simultaneously ran multiple testing stations.

The firemen from Rijeka Fire brigade – Croatia (PGZ), Postojna fire brigade – Slovenia (GDP) and Gumpoldskirchen fire brigade – Austria (FFG) “competed” in a four-station testing circuit designed to simulate real conditions of wildland firefighting, under the scorching Rijeka Sun, at around 35oC. 

They were equipped with both SIXTHSENSE Alpha prototype sensing devices, as well as the state-of-the-art systems for benchmarking, and performed intensive exercises to reach high level of physiological strain. Collected data was wirelessly transmitted to the base station located in the near-by command centre and then stored to the SIXTHSENSE online data warehouse. 

These tests were managed by experts from ULE, with technical support from partners that developed the sensing (TECSR) and recording (GES) systems. In between these sessions, the firefighters did extensive psychological testing, administered by JR to determine the cognitive load and correlation between fatigue and first responders’ decision making capabilities.

In parallel, researchers from TECSR performed a psychometric study investigating different message coding modalities for communication of mission critical information through electrotactile feedback. MRB took part in these tests alongside the firefighters. 

Between these tests and the pilot with SMR in Kopaonik, all SIXTHSENSE first responders have experienced the electrotactile stimulation and provided their valuable feedback.


As the tests were progressing and the data streamed to the offices, multiple technical meetings were held between the technology provider partners. Notably, partners from WP7 took advantage of being together with multiple commanding officers from different organisations to hold a co-development workshop on the command centre dashboard, being developed by TG

Coordinator (TEC) organised a series of bilateral meetings discussing the possible avenues for pursuing the project to policy ambitions of the SIXTHSENSE consortium. The information gathered greatly clarified the potential of each partner and will allow creating a realistic roadmap for future implementation of project results

Due to the strange circumstances under which the project started this was the first in-person meeting between a larger number of partners. While the tests conducted are very important and will greatly benefit the technical advancement within the project, the shared experiences are invaluable.

We may need to wait for scientific results of the tests, as data processing and analysis will take time and effort. However, one outcome was immediately evident, the Rijeka fire brigade passed the test of hospitality with flying colours. Part of the great atmosphere can be seen by following this link to GDP’s website gallery.


Between the expertise of the firefighting instructors and the excellent facilities of the Šapjane training centre, it is clear that there is a huge potential for co-development of first responder technologies both within and beyond the scope of the SIXTHSENSE project. 

Testando el estrés termo-fisiológico del modelo Alpha


Uno de los principales objetivos del WP6 del proyecto SIXTHSENSE es establecer un modelo predictivo para evaluar el estrés al que se ven sometidos los integrantes de los cuerpos de emergencia durante sus despliegues. Durante el primer año del proyecto SIXTHSENSE se ha creado un modelo preliminar teniendo en cuenta las principales variables fisiológicas integradas en el prototipo Alpha diseñado. El modelo propuesto durante los primeros meses de vida del proyecto ha sido valorado a través de diferentes pruebas piloto realizadas en el laboratorio de Valoración de la Condición Física de la Universidad de León, España (ULE), en colaboración con el grupo de investigación Joanneum Research, Austria.

El principal objetivo de las pruebas realizadas fue determinar el comportamiento del modelo propuesto a lo largo de las pruebas que simulaban la intensidad de trabajo a las que se ven sometidos los cuerpos de emergencia. El grupo de investigación VALFIS (UIC 314) de la Universidad de León fue el encargado de realizar estas pruebas piloto, como miembro del consorcio del proyecto, gracias a su experiencia previa en trabajos con los cuerpos de emergencia y en la evaluación del rendimiento físico y la salud.


scientist in a laboratory
Condiciones de trabajo en el laboratorio durante la realización de las pruebas piloto.

Las pruebas se realizaron en condiciones ambientales controladas (i.e., humedad y temperatura) y los participantes llevaron su equipo de protección personal, el cual pesa aproximadamente 6 kg e incrementa su estrés térmico. Durante el transcurso del test los sujetos fueron sometidos a diferentes intensidades de ejercicio y se analizaron diferentes niveles de estrés. Además, durante el desarrollo de las pruebas se aplicaron diferentes pruebas psicológicas y cognitivas diseñadas por el Joanneum Research.

En conjunto, estas pruebas iniciales fueron el paso inicial para pulir el diseño experimental que se llevará a cabo para valorar de manera conjunta los aspectos psicológicos y fisiológicos durante el proyecto SIXTHSENSE.

Localización de diferentes sensores utilizados para la adquisición de parámetros fisiológicos (izquierda) y participante durante la realización del test (derecha).
Participante realizando las pruebas psicológicas y cognitivas diseñadas por el Joanneum Research.

A pesar del reto que ha supuesto la pandemia producida por la COVID-19, las pruebas se pudieron realizar siguiendo un estricto protocolo de seguridad. Todos los sujetos fueron sometidos a un test PCR el día anterior a su participación en las pruebas. En consecuencia, los resultados obtenidos han servido para seguir avanzando en el modelado del estrés psicológico y fisiológico que se implementará en el prototipo Alpha que será probado en unas pruebas de campo con bomberos forestales a finales del mes de junio en la localidad Croatia de Rijeka.



Testing the physiological strain Alpha model


As one of the first milestones of the WP6, preliminary predictive model to assess the first responders’ strain was proposed. This Alpha version is based on the exiting models, modified to consider the main physiological variables that will be integrated into the SIXTHSENSE system for the Alpha prototype.

In the first months of 2021, the proposed physiological strain Alpha model was tested through a set of pilot laboratory tests at University of Leon, Spain (ULE), in collaboration with the group from Joanneum Research, Austria (JR).

The main aim in these pilot tests was to explore the performance of the proposed model for tracking the physiological strain. The sports science department of the University of Leon (VALFIS Research Group) led the effort in the pilot trials as the project partner with extensive experience in both collaborative work with first responders and health-related physical fitness and performance assessment.

scientist in a laboratory
Working atmosphere during the pilot tests in ULE’s laboratory.

Participants of the experiment performed predefined physical exercises in ULE’s laboratory, where environmental conditions (humidity, temperature, etc.) were controlled. During the experiment they wore wildland firefighters’ personal protection equipment (weighing almost 6 kg) over the equipment needed to acquire physiological parameters.

The exercises were specifically designed and rigorously administered to elicit specific levels of physiological strain, allowing the system to record the physical responses of interest for the SIXTHSENSE research.

Physiological parameter acquisition equipment placement (left) and a participant during an exercise (right).

In addition, the pilot tests have proven the feasibility of combining this protocol with the psychological and cognitive assessment designed by JR. This is a major step towards achieving the experimental study designs where physiological and psychological aspects can be jointly explored.

Participant performing JR’s psychological and cognitive tests.

Despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, and while following the recommended precautions, the main model-testing protocol was established and verified. These results bring us closer to the Alpha demonstrator field testing.
To be continued in Rijeka, Croatia…


Successful alpha prototype testing

During the 2021 winter season, SIXTHSENSE partners, Tecnalia Serbia and MRS, tested the electrotactile alpha prototype made within the WP7 over the previous months.

The alpha prototype included electrodes for electrotactile stimulation, used to code messages and warnings that first-responders can recognize. It is an ambitious endeavor as this was the first time such modality was used to transmit meaningful information to first responders as they are performing usual tasks in their line of duty. There are several open challenges that this project is trying to overcome, starting from confirming the feasibility of using the novel communication channel in the conditions the first responders face.

The tested system was made with first responders-for first responders. This was the first time it was tested outside the laboratory. With the help of Serbia’s Mountain Rescue Service – MRS, under the supervision of Tecnalia Serbia’s researchers the tests were performed on the snowy slopes of Kopaonik mountain in Serbia. The mountain rescuers wore the electrotactile system under their standard gear and tried to recognize different stimulation patterns that were applied as they performed their tasks.

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