When the Country Fire Authority in Victoria, Australia, noticed that its firefighters were showing signs of heat stress even when their ear thermometer probes were reading normal temperatures, they decided it was time to find a better gauge in the hopes of preventing heat-related illnesses.
So they tested a smart pill on 50 firefighters evacuating 20 people from a burning medical center, and have already used the readings to change firefighter work patterns, including how long they're exposed to blazes, according to the Australian Associated Press.
When ingested, the Equivital EQ02 LifeMonitor capsule, which is coated in plastic and includes a thermometer and small transmitter, reads the core body temperature and wirelessly transmits the data to a computer in real time.
It also couples with a belt that reads skin temperature, pulse, and respiration rate. (Felix Baumgartner wore this same belt during his famous Stratos jump this past October.)
The pill has so far been tested in firefighters exposed to temperatures ranging from 26 to 255 degrees Fahrenheit. Like most smart pills, the capsule is expelled naturally from the body within a day or two.
Next up, the fire authority plans to test the pills at temperatures ranging from 100 to 600 degrees Celsius, or 212 to 1,112 degrees Fahrenheit. Authorities may be upgrading the flash hoods and protective clothing of the bush firefighters as well.
The advances can't come soon enough. Firefighters in Australia have already had to battle more than 100 bush fires in the first few weeks of 2013, as record-breaking temperatures were recorded across the country.