Safety vests attract Chilean quake experts

ALAN WOOD
Last updated 05:00 31/01/2014
Tait Communications vest
STACY SQUIRES/Fairfax NZ

HEART RATE: Chile official Fredy Rivas (right) checks out the heart rate of Maximo Lawrie who is wearing a BioLink monitoring vest.

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Tait Communications is working with Chilean officials in its latest effort to spread its hi-tech radios and other products into the potentially lucrative South American markets.

Tait management and staff yesterday showed Chilean delegates visiting its Christchurch factory systems that can monitor the safety of personnel working in a natural disaster.

Like Canterbury, Chile was hit by earthquakes in 2010. In February that year the coast of central Chile was hit by a magnitude of 8.8 earthquake with damage spreading widely from the epicentre.

Tait manufactures radio communication handsets, bases and networks and those in emergency services - ambulance, police or fire or utility areas - are key customers.

Tait design engineer Tanmay Bhola showed the delegation a vest that monitors whether a firefighter or earthquake rescuer is showing normal vital signs and whether they have fallen into a prone position in a field locator.

The digital software package clipped into the vest includes a GPS locator system to feed back information to a headquarters in "real time". "It comes in two (formats), either this wearable strap that Maximo's wearing here or the other thing is the T-shirt," Bhola said.

Corporate communications manager Martin Deakin said the sales work behind winning contracts with new clients could take some time.

Tait clients include the Fire Department of New York, Victoria's Country Fire Authority and New Zealand Police.

Tait's digital products could typically key into networks run by clients and connect into existing communication devices including mobile phones.

"They (the delegation) are here to see some for themselves. You've got all the software, the hardware development, and the innovation space where a lot of the real collaborative work goes on," Deakin said.

The Chilean delegation includes representatives from the Oficina Nacional de Emergencias del Ministerio del Interior, the Chilean Cabinet and the Los Lagos Emergency and Civil Protection group. They are in New Zealand to learn about the preparation and planning New Zealand agencies have undergone following the Canterbury earthquakes.

Tait chief executive Frank Owen said the delegation's visit to Christchurch was an opportunity for the company to demonstrate its expertise in the "mission-critical" communications sector.

"South America is an important region for Tait and we continue to make excellent progress in our strategy to deliver and support networks that public safety users can rely on."

Tait's annual revenues are now north of US$150 million (NZ$182m).

Sao Paulo civil police have committed to a new NZ$4.89m upgrade of its existing Tait P25 digital radio network.

Tait remains committed to a "collaborative" campus off Wairakei and Wooldridge roads on the western edge of Christchurch, with staff scheduled to move into the new building from October.

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