Special equipment is being designed for use by emergency response workers.

The hands-free devices are used by firefighters, police, school protection units, and more recently by ship inspectors around the world.

“The first models were developed for the Coast Guard,” says Jim Tootell, enterprise solutions developer for Anteon, one of the participating vendors. He describes his company’s product as a wearable computer attached to a Canon camera, equipped with a Global Positioning System and wireless capability. “The Coast Guard wanted ways to track ongoing problems, like oil spills,” he says.

Anteon partnered with Xybernaut, which has patented some of its own wearable computers, to design a portable device combining GPS location technology with the ability to take and transmit photographs so viewers elsewhere can pinpoint the location of the photograph.

“The real problem is that incidents happen in the field, and the people around don’t have all the expertise to fix them,” Tootell says. “This technology allows the people in the field to send images back and get expert advice instantly.”

The device has changed the way the Navy Pacific Fleet handles problems in the field, says Michael Binko, a Xybernaut spokesperson.

“Typically they had to bring the ship back to port and wait for someone qualified to work on it,” Binko says. “Now they can take a photo, send it to the high-level technician on call 24 hours a day and work through the problem.”

Though most users continue to work with still images and phone connections, the technology can also handle streaming video, Binko says. Video needs more bandwidth than is usually available, Tootell says. “Until more space is available, we can’t use the technology,” he adds.

More here.