Beat the heat with this cool gear
17 June 2016
The temperatures are in high 40s with higher levels of humidity, but you have to get out to work. Or you may be a cycling enthusiast, a football player, an athlete or a biker forced to either stop or reduce the amount of time you train and practice for. Well, worry not because there are innovative technologies available that can help you manage the heat and continue with your favourite activities even in these extremely hot conditions. And it is as simple as a wearable cooling gear. People at ‘Just Grow Material Supplies’ (JSM), a Qatari company, have brought innovative heat stress management cooling wear to Doha that is already helping many companies tackle the heat stress issues among their workers, besides assisting sportsmen in enhancing their performance in the hot summer days. The technology used in these garments is simple but mighty effective. There are two technologies under which these products operate — evaporative cooling and phase change management cooling. Like your body, evaporative cooling makes water evaporates from the fabric and it cools you down. It starts as a very basic product, such as a neck band to cover your neck. And then it goes to be as complex as a proper vest to cover your chest, back and the torso. “All of these have a special fabric called hyper-kewl. And this fabric is nothing but a combination of polymers bound together and this particular fabric absorbs water. When you work out there in the heat and the hot air goes through the fabric, the water in it starts evaporating and it cools you down,” Sumit Malhotra, General Manager JSM, tells Community in an interview. As the long summer season sets in Qatar, this type of cooling will be a more popular option. It comes in vests, head gear to wear under helmets or otherwise, wrist wraps, neck bands and more. The other method, Malhotra says, is a specialised cooling called phase-change. These are gels. You put them in refrigerator or ice-box. The good thing is you do not need to store them overnight or for number of hours. You put them in a refrigerator or an ice-box for about 45 minutes to an hour and the liquid changes to solid. The gel becomes ice. “You put these gels inside the cooling vest or any normal gear that you wear, even in the neckbands, and it maintains a constant temperature of 14C,” says Malhotra. This kind of technology is more useful for workers operating under extreme heat conditions. JSM gets these cooling products from TechNiche International, one of the largest manufacturers of cooling vests in the world, with distribution centres in the US, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. In Qatar where summers are extended and last well up to October, these cool innovative products are useful for almost everyone living and working here, says Malhotra. Whether you are a construction worker, an engineer working at any of the construction sites or you are working inside a factory, industry, plants, working offshore or you are a simple sports person, you can use this equipment. Whether you are a cyclist, go to gym, or love jogging, you can use these products. And if you are a biking fan, riding for example the big burley Harley-Davidson, there is a specialised line of cooling gear for you. It is particularly useful for the delivery people who ride bikes in the heat. It can even be used by children going to summer camps or sports camps. There are vests and a line of products for housewives working in the kitchen or the chefs. Malhotra says they have individual sports users in Qatar like cyclists and runners. Globally, however, this technology is used by FIFA teams in Europe, football clubs in Europe to Olympic cycling teams, Tour de France cyclists, and F1 racing teams such as Mclaren and Ferrari, besides many other sport clubs. “We have introduced and showcased this product to some of the big local football clubs here in Qatar including some of the big names. Some of them have shown interest to try these out for their players especially during practice sessions,” says JMS GM. They are in touch with local sports hospitals and centres that carry out research in terms of new technologies or devices that keep players cool. One of these institutions might be studying the cooling vests to suggest them for national teams here, says Malhotra. And it is not just football. You have an Olympic Committee here and there is a huge talent that is being grown for various sports. And then you have entities like Aspire Zone, which is preparing future players. Some of these cooling products can help them in terms of improving their performances or abilities, he adds. Qatar, he says, has been the largest user of cooling vests in one of the oil and gas projects during the construction phase, where more than 33,000 workers used the cooling gear from wrist and neck bands to vests to help them mitigate heat stress during summers. In that particular project, he says, they saw almost a 50% drop in the heat stress cases and no serious cases were reported. JMS has also extended the technology to the wider construction industry in Qatar in different sectors. “We now have users of many lines of products in various projects. And the feedback has been really encouraging,” says Malhotra. And the technology is very affordable, when seen against the value that it provides. The very basic neck band can be had for QR12. The cooling vest runs for QR300. But if you do simple math in terms of the number of days that the vest lasts, it would come to QR2 per day, says Malhotra. “When you are using these products, your body gets charged up, you take less frequent breaks, you can complete a job with a more enhanced focus. So if you consider all these factors, then the benefits far outweigh the financial costs,” says the JMS general manager. A completely Qatari-owned company, JMS was established in the late 1950s. It has a rich legacy of over 50 years but in its present form it was re-established in 2014. “Our focus is on innovative products looking at various best practices from around the world and bringing them to Qatar. We are the first company here to look at heat as a sector and provide solutions for it,” says the JMS GM.