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back to article Miracle Aliens-style indoor comms built for firefighters

So you're a firefighter of the near future. Your fire truck pulls up outside a burning building, and sure enough it turns out there are people still inside needing rescue. Firing up your breathing apparatus and unlimbering your axe, you charge in like generations of heroes before you. Here's where it gets different, though. In …

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Silver badge

One problem

"On your belt is an automated dispenser holding several small, waterproof, fireproof battery powered relay routers."

You really don't want batteries in a fire - they explode quite nicely.

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really don't want batteries in a fire

fireproof battery powered....?

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Facepalm

I'll bite

"fireproof" means proofed against the effects of fire. Presumably the risk of fire damage and explosion is somewhat reduced, therefore.

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Headmaster

I refer you to

"small" and "fireproof".

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Mushroom

It's not hard to do...

The battery-powered devices I help create are "explosion-proof"; that means, should they explode with all the energy in the batteries, it won't set anything else off. It's designed to be used in dangerous areas; even if the battery did explode, you wouldn't be able to tell apart from the display going dark. Batteries might contain a lot of energy, but for a low-power, short-range transmitter, it would be more of a "pop" than a "bang" - unlike, say, a phone or laptop battery.

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@bolccg

"small" and "fireproof"

These two are mutually exclusive due to the laws of physics.

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Pint

Dribbling repeaters - lack of imagination...

So they carry five repeaters. What if they need twelve to close the link?

A better approach would be to use very short duty cycle, very high peak power transmissions, combined with frequency chirp and the latest CDMA spread spectrum techniques to provide even more coding gain. For low data rates, they could even stack up multiple layers of Barker Codes to achieve even more coding gain. Then add an active antenna array with MIMO to the mobile command station. These are all simple and easy off-the-shelf techniques that can be used together, but nobody (to my knowledge) has ever combined all of them into one system to achieve the maximum total system gain.

This sort of "all-the-above" approach to stacking-up appropriate technologies could add about 80dB (+/-) of system gain to the radio channel. Even if repeaters are required, it would require far fewer while providing a more-reliable system in the worst cases.

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Thumb Down

If you're so imaginative...

Go and build it.

Otherwise, shut up and be grateful someone else is doing the hard work.

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Shed Time

Well go on then, get down to your garden shed and get developing!

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Flame

What if they need twelve?

How many incidents in large buildings are tackled (in the real world, as opposed to that version of it portrayed on the small or big screen) by a single firefighter? Even with just the repeaters carried by the crew of a single fire engine you'd have a goodly number to play with, and by the time you add in the repeaters carried by all the other crews who're attending the same incident (thinking about some recent news reports of fires in my area, having 100+ firefighters in attendance isn't out of the question) then it's probably safe to assume that only having 5 repeaters on any one individual firefighter isn't likely to be an issue.

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"scientifiction"?

HG Wells called - he wants his dictionary of obsolete words back.

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Happy

Scientifiction

Haven't heard that term in a long time!

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Unhappy

"scientifiction"

Please tell me that's a typo and not some ghastly portmanteau.

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scientifiction

It goes back to beyond the golden age, and pre-dates the term Science Fiction. I seem to remember Isaac Asimov commenting in the forward to one of his short stories on the argument between the use of the two terms when Astounding Stories was being published (it's even older than Isaac (rip), but he was representing the view of Hugo Gernsback, the founding editor).

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Anonymous Coward

Relaying back coordinates?

How do they intend to get a gps signal inside a burning building?

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Anonymous Coward

@Relaying back coordinates?

Extremely well programmed accelerometer+gyroscope combo could provide enough information to track where the firefighter goes even without a GPS signal, especially when the data is overlaid onto the 3D map of the building (assuming one exists).

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There's more than one way to skin a cat...

...or determine your current location, especially if you can get an accurate fix on your starting position. An absolute position fix obtained via GPS whilst waiting to enter the building, combined with relative motion tracking - e.g. accelerometers (as in the Wiimote) - may work at the sort of distances we're talking about here.

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Silver badge

What you need is inertial navigation.

Submarines have used it for years when underwater, and surface ships and missiles used to use it before GPS satellites existed.

In fact, I seem to remember that German V1 and V2 missiles used a very primitive form of this for navigation. A documented way of crashing a V1 was to tip the giros by flipping it over wing-to-wing using a late mark Spitfire, Mosquito, Tempest or Mustang, all of which were fast enough to catch a V1.

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Anonymous Coward

Commentors - lack of imagination

So, they carry 12. Big deal. It,s not like they would be particularly large.

As to the rest, sounds like you have a plan - just need to find a venture capitalist who will fund your idea and you should be rolling. Or Dragons dens perhaps?

Or maybe the guys whose job it is to do this stuff are on the right track...hmmm.....tough one.

@Vlad. So, a few die because of the heat (did you see the fireproof bit in the text btw), just drop a few more.

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Re: @Vlad

"did you see the fireproof bit in the text btw"

I saw it, I just did not believe it. No such thing as small & fireproof.

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Coat

GLANSER

Sounds like a load of cock to me.

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Great but what does the Dept of Homeland Stupidity want with it?

Great tech, will probably save lives but how will it help the DHS to fondle the genitalia of air travellers or torture Afghani taxi drivers?

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Meh

Dept of Homeland Stupidity

I had the same thought, but if you're looking for funding I guess they have a pretty big budget. And it's easy to find a terrorism angle - presumably lack of communication between firefighters was a problem (albeit only for a short time) during the 9/11 disaster at the WTC.

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This is within the DHS charter

Despite the fact that fighting terrorism is by far their most visible fuction, providing support to emergency responders also falls under the domain of DHS. It's one of their lesser known and more useful functions. Homeland security involves more than just human threats.

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First responders

As noted above, they support first responders as part of their defensive role... and a serious terrorist strike is exactly where this gear could make all the difference... and let's face it this sounds really, really cool.

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GLANSER, PHASER, WISPER...

GLANSER, PHASER, WISPER...

Here's another: Bureau of Increadibly Gobby Federal Acronym Inventing Linguists.

Still, the tech looks great! I wonder what else it could be used for... Tracking mental patients within an asylum maybe?

(location: chief whips office, parliament) "He's already exited the lobby, heading towards the bar! Get him back right now, we need every MP we can muster!"

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Anonymous Coward

Title...

This would only be required for those going in without hoses. I assume those with hoses could have a nice wired link back to hq via the hose itself.

Do they struggle that much now with conventional radio comms? Why are conventional radio comms with the potential of a big ass powered relay in the trucks that much of a problem as they are?

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Big Brother

This is not the same

Radio comms are OK for command and control--but this system (if it works) makes them far more effective... compare:

CONVENTIONAL:

"Where are you, Jim?"

"Not sure...upstairs... wait third bedroom"

"Where's Bob?"

"Ummm Two rooms behind."

"Crap. Bob, turn left and go to the third bedroom"

"Gasp"

"Jim?"

"Jim?"

"Crap somebody find Jim!"

etc etc....

WITH NEW GEAR:

"Bob you're two rooms behind Jim, go left--no your other left-- good pass two doors."

"Jim, your heart rate is up--you OK?"

"Jim get out now!"

"Bill, Jim is in trouble and he's three rooms down from you..." etc etc

Just knowing where your people are takes away a LOT of the fog of war (or smoke of fire)

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Good thinking about the hose ...

... a reasonably rugged hard connection back to the outside world. Are they used as anything other than water carriers these days?

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Bronze badge

A possibly less expensive alternative...

Why not equip them with (as partly mentioned above) with Android, phone-like devices (or, cheap phones if lack of fire-department dedication would adversely jack up the pricing). Add on top of those via the headphone jack a set of Vitals wires, sort of like what astro/Cosmonauts might wear. On top of that, add the appropriate softwared to feed the vitals to the phone and here, then, the signals go encrypted to a local phone tower..

In the Incident Command vehicle, the FD (or law enforcement) would have jack-in permissions to co-opt local cell towers in the name of Civil Defense and Disaster Response. They might have to pay a "rent fee", or the cell tower owners might be accorded tax offsets, or some sort of incentive to allow the FD/LE use to de-prioritize iPhoners and Androiders until the system stabilizes. Meanwhile, FD/LE usage in bigger cities shouldn't be a problem.

However, I can see where DHLS and LE and fire depts may want their own mobile units. There won't necessarily by towers out in the boonies where some miscreants or wanted individuals are holed-up. Also, the FD/PD having their own units means they are not at the mercy of a cell tower going out if some inebriated motorist crashes into a green box at the curb.

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Money better spent

All the money for this 'accounting' could be better spent on better existing kit and more fire-fighters to replace the burnt ones.

This technology sounds like a managers wet dream and a pain in the ass of the workers....

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Flame

PHASER

I think the Roddenberry estate may want their word back as well. (pardon my ignorance if it goes back further than that)

Maybe they shoul have repeater ariels on the hose tips. Just don't let the Apple engineers design them.

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Boffin

in building GPS

Telecom, telemetry, and mesh go surprisingly well together. In GPS the receiver measures the relative distance to each satellite. Mesh networks can do the same, except with other mesh nodes. Although I'm not sure if a bunch of firemen running through narrow corridors of a building would provide good geometry, and presumably the number of nodes would need to quadruple to provide location + coms.

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Mushroom

More acronyms

Key Atomic Benefits Office of Mankind -

"KABOOM"

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Flame

Sounds like securing the homeland to me

The DHS have worked very hard to do something positive and I expect it to need a lot more work but they have shown a workable concept.

It's a shame people need to tear this down.

DARPA and Internet anyone? Of course people couldn't go on like this about it because there wasn't an internet.

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