WATCHiT is a wearable computer sewn in a wristband to be worn under the work uniform. It empowers emergency workers to capture information during field work, without interrupting rescue operations, via a distraction-free user interface.

During crises, information about the environment (e.g. to map the territory) and the rescuers (e.g. for assessment of worker’s condition) offers help during the acute phase of an emergency, to support coordination of work; and in post-emergency debriefings and training, to understand what happened and learn from mistakes. Being each crisis nearly unique it is important to collect data from every single occurrence, yet it is difficult to foresee the type of data and context information that is relevant to capture.

WATCHiT features: (i) physical sensor modules for transient customization of the type of data captured on the field, (ii) an intuitive distraction-free user interface that builds on mnemonic body shortcuts to control the data and haptic displays.


Data capturable by WATCHiT can include information from the individual, for example stress levels, vocal notes, check-in in locations; and information sensed from the environment like temperature, gas or radioactive exhalations.

The set of data that WATCHiT captures when it is worn is not defined a priori, but can be easily customized docking small sensor modules on a Velcro wristband. Each piece of information captured by WATCHiT embeds its own GPS coordinates and timestamp of creation to allow locating the information (and the worker) in time and space.


The user interacts with WATCHiT via body-gestures and haptic feedbacks. Thanks to RFID tokens embedded in work uniforms and tools, portions of surfaces can be turned in shortcuts to trigger digital operations. Hovering WATCHiT on a shortcut, with the user performing a body gesture, triggers a pre-programmed action. For example shortcuts can be designed to activate specific sensors or to tag the data being collected with pre-defined labels.

A tactile display located on the user’s wrist provide eyes-free haptic notifications and messages from the system.

watchit gesturewatchit_in_action

Data captured are stored in WATCHiT to be reviewed during debriefings, with CroMAR, but  can also be wirelessly broadcasted for real-time decision support.

User Studies

The design of WATCHiT has been driven by user studies, shadowing of field workers, and focus groups conducted with paramedics, rescue workers and disaster managers members of ANPAS Piemonte, Italy. WATCHiT has been worn and evaluated during a massive simulation of flooding in April ’13. Results from the study will be soon published.


Prototyping Iterations

WATCHiT has gone thru four design iterations. While all prototypes implement some extent of wearability, they feature different degrees of tailorability and different approach to hands-free user interaction. Implementing several high-fidelity prototypes has allowed to experiment with different user interaction modalities and the use of prototypes to trigger discussions and brainstorming during focus groups. Three prototypes have been implemented in devices that could resemble a wristband or a watch; one prototype has been embedded in a jacket, this has been implemented in a smartjacket [paper WP5 | magazine], as part of a SINTEFNTNU collaboration.


For more information see papers about early prototypes [C11] on the publications page. An up-to-date demo video will be published soon.

WATCHiT arduino code, modules schematics and 3D-printable shields are on github.


WATCHiT is co-funded by the MIRROR project. I soundly thank Mr. Gianni Della Valle, volunteers of “P.A. Croce Bianca Fossano”, “P.A. Croce Verde Saluzzo” and “P.A. Croce Bianca Fossano” for taking part to our user studies and evaluations. Photos by Kai Torgeir Dragland.