SIXTHSENSE beta field trials in mountain rescue scenario

7th to 10th of March 2023, Kopaonik, Serbia

After addressing key issues in the Beta prototype identified during the Postojna field trials, the system was once more deployed in the realistic conditions of first responder operations.

The consortium gathered at the Kopaonik mountain, hosted by the Serbian Mountain Rescuers (SMR), to test the system in the conditions of winter rescue scenario.


Over 40 researchers, developers and practitioners from 10 different organizations came to the event. In total 17 first responders from Mountain Rescue Service of Serbia the Association of Mountain Rescue Organizations of B&H took part in the tests which were performed in 4 sessions.

Similarly to the tests performed with the firefighters, the activity was organized in a circuit with 4 exercises relevant to the mountain rescuers:

1:Vertical rope climb

2: Uphill march

3. Avalanche victim excavation

4. Ski lift evacuation

The SIXTHSENSE Beta prototype in the full communication chain was tested with 6 electrotactile messages adapted to the requirements of the mountain rescue first responders.

For the very first time the SIXTHSENSE electrotactile communication system was fully functional in the harsh conditions of the field trials.

Over 400 individual messages were received by the first responders over the course of the trials.

After only minutes of training to use the electrotactile communication system and in spite of highly intensive physical activities, the overall message recognition success rate was over 70%, with some subjects having over 90% scores.

In addition to testing the electrotactile communications and gathering the physiological data during these activities, the cognitive load and effects of fatigue on the decision making process were assessed in tests designed and administered by the researchers from JRD.

Finally, the first version of a SIXTHSENSE garment developed based on the GAMMA specifications was presented to the consortium members and tested with the first responders to gather their impressions and suggestions.

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.