AN EDINBURGH company has launched the next generation of wearable technology – and it could be a real lifesaver.

The ezPyro sensor from Pyreos has a built-in processor that could be incorporated into smart watches, fitness trackers and other items.

Smaller than a 5p coin, it can be used to detect flames and the presence of gases, as well as analysing how concentrated they are.

The device can detect poisonous substances such as carbon monoxide from inefficient central heating boilers or the methane produced in industrial processes. Its ability to identify fire can be critical in large industrial facilities, such as oil and gas installations or petrochemical plants.

Pyreos chief executive Andrew Wallace explained the importance of the sensor from the company’s point of view.

He said: “Our new ezPyro sensor has the potential to be a real game-changer for the company by opening up a whole new set of markets for us.

“The wearable technology sector is expected to be worth $25 billion (£18bn) by 2019, according to figures from industry analysis firm CCS Insight, with more than 245 million devices expected to be in use before the end of the decade.

“This is a massive opportunity for Pyreos and our sensors, and it complements the use of our existing range of sensors which are in mobile phones and also in other consumer electronic devices.”

The sensor – which is the world’s smallest pyro-electric sensor with a digital interface – is being launched at the Sensor+Test measurement fair at Nuremburg, Germany, which is set to open today.

Wallace added: “As well as the consumer applications, ezPyro will also be a useful tool in the industrial market.

“Detecting poisonous gases such as carbon monoxide and methane can help to improve safety and save lives, while measuring carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides plays an important role in keeping our environment clean.

“The ezPyro sensor can also be used to detect motions and gestures, which have a whole range of applications. They include operating touch-free medical devices or taps in hospitals, which helps to cut down on the spread of infections.”

As well as detecting gestures, the sensor can also provide information on the direction and speed of a movement.

Its incorporated processing unit allows it to produce digital signals that can then be analysed by wearable gadgets, providing users with more detailed information.

As well as detecting as carbon monoxide and methane, the sensor can also pick-up carbon dioxide – that can be important for monitoring the environment in climate management and ventilation systems – and the nitrogen oxides produced by vehicle engines.

Pyreos was spun out from Siemens in 2007, and its technology is based on the equivalent of 75 man-years and some €10 million (£7m) of investment and research at Siemens in ceramic thin-film technology.

The company has filed more than 120 patents to protect the intellectual property it has created so far.

Its major shareholders include Robert Bosch Venture Capital, Scottish Investment Bank (the investment arm of Scottish Enterprise), Seraphim Partners, Siemens Technology Accelerator and Braveheart.

All shareholders contributed to a further £2.5m funding package for the company last year.

The firm is based at the Scottish Microelectronics Centre on the University of Edinburgh’s King’s Buildings campus.