Even 25 metres below ground, positioning system tracks firefighters

Jan 14, 2014
Firefighters test the positioning system 25 metres underground. Credit: Erik Groundstroem

With sensor-equipped footwear developed at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, firefighters can be even more effective at saving lives and property.

Fire, smoke and zero visibility – a firefighter's working environment is extreme. Now, with sensor-equipped footwear developed at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, firefighters can be even more effective at saving lives and property.

An innovative digital positioning system that uses sensors inside the heel of a boot makes it possible for emergency commanders to follow firefighters' movements independently of infrastructure, and even 25 metres below ground.

Behind the project are Peter Händel, Professor of Signal Processing, John-Olof Nilsson, a researcher at KTH, and Jouni Ranta Kokko, a KTH researcher and research leader at the Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI).

The system they designed includes advanced sensors such as accelerometer and gyroscope, plus a processor. It can withstand shock and extremely high temperatures and remains operational where GPS positioning systems fail.

A wireless module worn on the shoulder sends the data to operational command. The precise information about responders' location and movements enables emergency coordinators to control operations remotely and ensure that the firefighters remain effective and safe under extremely dangerous conditions.

"When the firefighters can work safer and more efficiently, they can also save more lives," says Peter Händel, Professor of Signal Processing at KTH, one of those who worked on the development of the sensor shoe.

The system has been tested successfully with in real time, 25 metres below ground.

The positioning capability can also be used by others – such as police and military response forces, or medical services at major incidents. Even rescue work far below the ground, as in mines, can be facilitated by being able to position both workers and rescue teams without the need for extensive infrastructure.

The next step for the researchers is to make the sensors part of the sole, which would increase flexibility and open up more uses than when built into the heel. The idea is also that the sole will also generate its own power supply. The aim is also that the sole can be thin enough for use in ordinary shoes.

The research project on the management system is in collaboration with the Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI), Swedish rescue services and with the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore.

Explore further: Older firefighters may be more resilient to working in heat

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Older firefighters may be more resilient to working in heat

Jan 08, 2014

Older firefighters who are chronically exposed to heat stress on the job could be more heat resilient over time. A recent study published in the December issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene (JOEH) ...

New sensor system tracks firefighters where GPS fails

Dec 06, 2011

Firefighter Ray Hodgson hits the talk button on his walkie-talkie: "I have fire showing, possibility of a rescue on the third floor. Engine 35, initiate a rescue group. Also back him up with a hose line."

Simulating firefighting operations on a PC

Jan 03, 2012

Firefighters often put their lives at risk during operations, so it is essential they have reliable tools to help them do their job. Now, a modular simulation kit is set to help develop new information and ...

Recommended for you

Large streams of data warn cars, banks and oil drillers

18 hours ago

Better warning systems that alert motorists to a collision, make banks aware of the risk of losses on bad customers, and tell oil companies about potential problems with new drilling. This is the aim of AMIDST, the EU project ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

'Chief Yahoo' David Filo returns to board

Yahoo announced the nomination of three new board members, including company co-founder David Filo, who earned the nickname and formal job title of "Chief Yahoo."

Simplicity is key to co-operative robots

A way of making hundreds—or even thousands—of tiny robots cluster to carry out tasks without using any memory or processing power has been developed by engineers at the University of Sheffield, UK.

Floating nuclear plants could ride out tsunamis

When an earthquake and tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant complex in 2011, neither the quake nor the inundation caused the ensuing contamination. Rather, it was the aftereffects—specifically, ...

New clinical trial launched for advance lung cancer

Cancer Research UK is partnering with pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca and Pfizer to create a pioneering clinical trial for patients with advanced lung cancer – marking a new era of research into personalised medicines ...

More vets turn to prosthetics to help legless pets

A 9-month-old boxer pup named Duncan barreled down a beach in Oregon, running full tilt on soft sand into YouTube history and showing more than 4 million viewers that he can revel in a good romp despite lacking ...