San Diego IoT startup grabs $1.3 million to track firefighters’ exposure to toxins

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San Diego-based Vault RMS announced a $1.3 million seed round Tuesday led by SD-based VC Keshif Ventures and Bill Miller of Legg Mason, hoping to turn firefighters’ uniforms, equipment and trucks into toxin detectors to help fire departments track illnesses and injuries on the job, such as cancer, in a faster manner. The round also included SF-based Right Side Capital.

“Moving forward, when a firefighter gets cancer or a work-related illness we’ll be able to provide instant documentation to expedite the claims process,” said inventor and VP of Business Development and Co-founder Clive Savacool, who developed permanent respiratory damage in his 30s from years on the job. Savacool decided to lean on advancements in big data to build the Vault Exposure Tracker that would detect the sort of conditions that lead to various kinds of disabilities, including cancer, in firefighters, “saving municipalities time and money, while getting firefighters more timely care and support.”

The initial product was built in conjunction with the International Firefighter Cancer Foundation, San Francisco Firefighter Cancer Prevention Foundation, and the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance, according to their website.

The announcement comes just two weeks after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a multiyear study of cancer among firefighters that looked at 30,000 people from three major U.S. cities (Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco) who were on duty between 1950 and 2010. CDC’s study confirmed higher instances of cancer among firefighters (mainly respiratory, oral, digestive and urinary) thanks to extreme but unavoidable working conditions. Those surveyed also were twice as likely as the general population to have malignant mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.

Vault RMS wants to use IoT to reduce cancer rates among firefighters
Vault RMS wants to use IoT to reduce cancer rates among firefighters

Asbestos detection, among other things, is at the forefront of concern for Vault RMS. The software can display results on desktop or mobile and is able to incorporate analysis of groups or entire departments. It integrates with wearables, chemical sensors, 911 dispatch, and even weather APIs, according to a press release from the company. The round itself will be applied to finding “additional strategic partnerships with hardware manufacturers,” as well as software companies and wearable startups.

“By aggregating these disparate data sources, firefighters now have a far greater understanding of what their bodies are exposed to,” said Chris Memmott, CEO and Founder of Vault RMS. “We then donate the anonymized data to cancer researchers to further our mission in the fight against firefighter cancer.”

Their prices? Absurdly reasonable. Individual firefighters can pay $5/month or $50/year, while an entire department can adopt it at a monthly rate of $3 per user. For anyone still on the job who has survived cancer, the software is absolutely free.

Vault RMS was founded in May 2013 by CEO Chris Memmott and VP Business Development Clive Savacool.

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