It looks more like a Space Age horse pill. But compared to the amount of data it can produce, the size of the CorTemp body heat monitoring pill is no big thing.
The device, which measures three-quarters of an inch in length and a little over a centimeter in diameter, transmits an individual's core body temperature when swallowed. Once ingested, the pill begins transmitting information on the body's core temperature immediately, and passes safely out of the body after about 18 to 30 hours.
The CorTemp pill has long had a presence in college and professional football, due to heat exhaustion concerns as players train during the summer months. The pill has also been used in the space program, monitoring the inner well-being of astronauts.
Now HQ Inc., the company that manufactures CorTemp, is turning its attention to fire departments. Given the extreme temperatures regularly faced by firefighters, CorTemp's applications in the fire service are obvious.
According to Sales and Marketing Manager, Susan Smith, once the pill is ingested, core body temp readings can be quickly taken in as little as three seconds. To ensure stable core readings, it is recommended that the pill be ingested two to three hours before data collection to ensure the pill has passed through the stomach and into the intestinal tract where the pill's temperature will not be affected by consumed water or fluids.
The CorTempT pill wirelessly transmits its data through the body to a hand-held recording device. The recording device converts the pill's different temperature pills. Data can be downloaded and analyzed at a later time. The system also has long range PDA RF capabilities.
Although CorTemp — which was originally developed by the Johns Hopkins University – has been on the market for 18 years, HQ Inc. has only begun to target firefighters within the past year.
Smith said a primary reason it has taken so long for the device to reach groups such as firefighters is the "resistance to swallowing an electrical device."
However, Smith added that she thinks acceptance of the technology will grow as other ingestible medical monitoring devices — such as PH monitors and internal cameras — become more widely used.
Another challenge in making the technology more widespread in use is the price - the pills average around $35 each, depending on volume and are used only once. HQ Inc. anticipates the system to be more affordable once the volumes increase.
But the intriguing capabilities of the pill, as well as its proven success in other industries, has HQ Inc. confident that the fire service will see the value and begin to implement CorTemp in departments across the nation.
"Now that the system is being used in firefighting research applications, it will be used more by the general fire fighting community for training, HAZMAT and heat stress management programs," Smith said. "We've got a lot of product validation behind us and a lot of satisfied customers."
In the years to come, Smith said, firefighters can expect to see the CorTemp pill at trade shows nationwide.
She also said that, as more departments begin using CorTemp, firefighters can expect the product to be tailored more toward them as the company learns more about their specific needs.
"There are literally thousands of fire departments across the country, so the opportunities are limitless," Smith said. "We want to be able to adapt to be more effective for firefighters."