GLANSER Test Set for Aug. 7

The demonstration of the DHS Science and Technology Directorate's first responder locating system is part of the Seventh Annual International Workshop on Precision Indoor Personnel Location and Tracking Technology in Worcester, Mass.

The Seventh Annual International Workshop on Precision Indoor Personnel Location and Tracking Technology on Aug. 6-7, hosted by Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Mass., will include what WPI bills as the first public demonstration of technology to track firefighters inside a structure and monitor their vital signs. The test of GLANSER -- the Geospatial Location Accountability and Navigation System for Emergency Responders funded by the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate and developed by a team led by Honeywell –- will be a rigorous one designed and executed by a team of first responders from the Worcester Fire Department, according to WPI.

Two scenarios will be used: a search-and-rescue mission to locate a lost firefighter and also an effort to help two members of a firefighting team who become separated and find each other. The building where these take place is not being disclosed to the developers and first responders until the day of the test, according to WPI. The workshop, which is sponsored by the DHS directorate, will include other tracking technology demonstrations and a session on military and training systems.

The directorate's explanation of GLANSER says it fits a microwave radio, a battery, and a suite of navigation devices into a tracking device the size of a paperback book. "Back at the fire truck, GLANSER's signals are received and transmitted by a small, USB-powered base station plugged into a laptop. As firefighters move from room to room and floor to floor, the laptop animates their every step. A second device, the Physiological Health Assessment System for Emergency Responders (PHASER), can monitor a firefighter's body temperature, blood pressure, and pulse, and relay these vitals back to the base station. If a firefighter falls or faints, fellow firefighters can race in, quickly find him, and bring him to safety –- guided by GLANSER," according to the 2011 summary.

The other component is the Wireless Intelligent Sensor Platform for Emergency Responders (WISPER) -- a self-powered router, measuring 1 inch square, that is resistant to heat up to 500 degrees F. A firefighter would enter a burning building with five routers in a belt-mounted, waterproof canister. If he steps behind concrete or beyond radio range, the base station orders his canister to drop a router. Dropped routers arrange themselves into a network, and if one is accidentally kicked down a stairwell or moved behind furniture by a fire hose, the network reconfigures automatically. WISPER's router, dispenser, and base station were developed by Oceanit Laboratories, Inc., of Honolulu and the University of Virginia's Department of Computer Science under an S&T Small Business Innovation Research program, and the WISPER system was successfully demonstrated in March 2011 at a FEMA office in Arlington, Va., providing strong signals even at distances up to 150 feet, according to DHS.

"We recognized early on that this was an enormous technical challenge," said James Duckworth, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at WPI and a member of the conference organizing committee. "No one group of researchers could tackle it on its own. Through this annual workshop, we have fostered an engaged and active global community all focused on solving the problem and giving first responders the technology they need to do their jobs with greater safety.

"There has never been a more critical time to develop technologies that benefit first responders," he continued. "This year's workshop will highlight some of those key technologies and showcase how far these innovations have come over the past decade."

You can follow the workshop via Twitter @WPINews and use hashtag #WPIPPL2012 to join the conversation.

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