Responding to emergencies with high-tech

West Metro Fire Rescue hosts Haptic Interfaces for Public Safety Challenge

Posted 11/13/19
Get in. Get the victim. Get out. All in less than six minutes. The West Metro Fire Rescue Training Center hosted a competition on Nov. 5 during which four teams of developers competed with their …

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Responding to emergencies with high-tech

West Metro Fire Rescue hosts Haptic Interfaces for Public Safety Challenge

Posted

Get in. Get the victim. Get out. All in less than six minutes.

The West Metro Fire Rescue Training Center hosted a competition on Nov. 5 during which four teams of developers competed with their high-tech prototypes to improve public safety operations.

One area of focus, said Dereck Orr, a division chief for the Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) Division, is how to advance technologies in the future.

“The whole purpose (of the competition) is to generate new technologies and ideas to help public safety's use of new communications technologies,” Orr said.

The four teams consisted of developers/innovators and providers/manufacturers ranging in numbers from a couple of people to an entire company.

The prototypes are high-tech communications devices placed in a firefighter's gear — gloves or helmet, for example. Using haptic technology, which, in its simplest definition, means touch-based signal, the devices are meant to help a firefighter or first responder navigate a dangerous situation, such as a smoke-filled building, through sensory such as vibrations.

These aren't technologies that are going to be available tomorrow, Orr said, but quite possibly in the next five-to-10 years.

“First responders are a small demographic compared to the general public,” said Scott Ledgerwood, the user interface and user experience lead for PSCR. “It's important to get this type of technology in the hands of the public safety community to show the potential impact these types of interfaces could have on their operations.”

The competition was put on by PSCR, federal laboratory that “conducts research, development, testing and evaluation for public safety communications technologies,” according to its website. It is housed in Boulder's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) facility, which is a unit of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Ryan Poltermann, who was part of Team DSGN, enjoys working with first responders to try to help solve some of the issues they face, they said. Team DSGN implemented haptic technology into a firefighter's gloves.

One of Poltermann's teammates, Kurt Anderson, added that a competition is the “right way to encourage creativity.”

“You have the freedom to explore a number of different ideas,” Anderson said.

Three West Metro firefighters participated in the competition by wearing the prototypes and testing their performance to locate a victim — in this case a dummy — in a smoke-filled structure.

“West Metro values being innovative and relevant,” said Capt. Todd Heinl. “Collaborating with these innovators allows us to improve our ability to do our job, which is to save lives. Anything we can do to help the community, we're gonna do it.”

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