The Future of Firefighting

Nine Technologies That Will Transform the Fire Service

Smart technologies like artificial intelligence, mixed reality or autonomous vehicles are being deployed by first responders in ways hardly imagined even just a decade ago. As firefighters grow accustomed to current technologies, other innovations such as use of big data, biotelemetry, facial recognition software, 360 video and the leveraging of gaming technology are beginning to emerge.

The integration of these systems will help streamline everything from pre-planning to emergency mitigation to post incident analysis. However, adoption of this technology will depend on usability and intuitive interfaces that allow seamless integration into current operations. For example, applications such as Scott Connect Monitor automatically pulls air management data with very little effort from an incident commander and puts real-time responder information at the IC’s fingertips.

“Technology is only as good as its usability,” said Jerry Shanko, accountability and software product manager for Scott Safety. “Bells and whistles are great, but if it’s not intuitive and doesn’t solve problems, then firefighters are much less likely to adopt new technologies.”

Here’s a list of nine technologies that could potentially change the way firefighters do their jobs.

1) Advanced biotelemetry

In addition to heart rate, biotelemetry will provide knowledge of a firefighter’s lactate levels which will notify managers how hard interior crews are working. Coupled with current connected monitoring of personnel and integrated with air management, advanced biotelemetry will keep responders safer in the IDLH environment.

2) Artificial intelligence, or AI

Future AI will provide real-time traffic analytics for time “closest” dispatches, object recognition through computer vision and will warn interior crews of pending flash-over and backdraft environments created on physics based computational computing.

3) Virtual, mixed and augmented reality (VR/MxR/AR)

The focus is to provide citizen education, responder training and emergency response enhancement through these emerging platforms. Children will soon learn stop, drop and roll in virtual reality through haptic touch and digital scent. Responders will mitigate imagined and genuine emergencies with technology developed for the gaming industry, leveraged for real-time visual awareness in visually immersive environs.

4) Autonomous vehicles

On the ground and in the air programmable vehicles will transport first responders and equipment before, during and post incident and reduce human-error caused collisions. These wheeled and winged vehicles will also play an important role in collecting and delivering data to responders via GPS, remote sensing and 3D 360 degree imagery capabilities.

5) Computer vision, edge detection and object recognition

Several systems have been developed by public (NASA) and private groups that allow firefighters in-facepiece vision, providing digitized and contrasted edge detection, in addition to thermal imaging. These new systems allow onboard object recognition that will transmit warnings to unaware firefighters and advise of imminent collapse of floors and roof assemblies.

6) Facial recognition software

This type of software is already assisting law enforcement in protecting those they serve. In the future, fire and medical personal will use this form of computer vision to allow a responder to know an unconscious patient’s identity, next of kin, treatment permission and medical history.

7) 360 video

These cameras are being used below water, from the ground and in the sky and can educate citizens and responders in many aspects of fire and life safety. Via social media they already provide visual displays in real time that allow responders to intellectually understand active shooter, flood, fire and collapse scenes prior to arrival.

8) Big data and the Internet of Things (BD/IOT)

Responders will have advanced situational awareness systems that utilize various sets of data and along with multi sensor fusion and the IOT that will have lifesaving advantages, both for emergency personal and potential victims as well. BD/IOT will remain a focus area where network security is a known and essential subject in these developing platforms.

9) SMART Cities

These types of initiatives around the globe bring it all together by providing 3D/360 digital assets for fire prevention, response mitigation and investigations. The use of digital design has been a staple for decades and fire prevention bureaus will be part of a previously unimaginable set of target safety maps that will interface with responder’s phones, tablets, facepieces and augmented reality; akin to “Ironman” stylized safety systems.

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