CDC Wants to Know How the Internet of Things Can Make the Workplace Safer


Emergency responders could use sensors to figure out when to evacuate, or when they need personal protective equipment.

Can tiny, wireless sensors help emergency responders handle disasters? A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agency thinks they can, and wants the public to comment.

Emergency responders increasingly use sensors and direct-reading instruments, which help them assess exposure to gas and other hazards, according to the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. But “newer sensor technologies have not been thoroughly evaluated,” says the agency’s new request for information about sensors, published Tuesday.

NIOSH, which is separate from OSHA but works with that agency, plans to funnel into a document about the future of emergency response technology. (NIOSH's broader programs cover sectors including mining and construction, though this inquiry was specifically issued by its Center for Direct Reading and Sensor Technologies.)

Questions include:

  • Which sensors, including wearable and embedded, “have the most immediate impact on emergency response?”
  • Which emergency response situations could most use sensors, including determining when employees need to evacuate, when they need personal protective equipment, or when protective equipment expires?
  • What could “impede sensor development and commercialization,” including market size or reliability?
  • What standards do manufacturers need to meet the expectations of “emergency responder expectations”?
  • What training would emergency responders need?
  • What other technological elements, such as Wi-Fi or location services could help responders use sensors?

NIOSH is collecting electronic and written comments until March 21, 2016.