Technology won’t rescue firefighters
FCC allows the sale of products based on ultrawideband
By Ben Charny
Feb. 15 — Firefighters and law enforcement agencies are likely the losers from this week’s Federal Communications Commission decision allowing the sale of products based on ultrawideband, a superfast wireless signal.
WHEN THE FCC on Thursday decided to make ultrawideband (UWB) available commercially, it set a limit on how powerful the signal can be. The FCC explained the limitations were to help allay fears that UWB’s powerful signals would interfere with military operations or broadcasts from television and radio stations.
As a result, companies like Florian Wireless and Time Domain say the UWB equipment they are each developing for rescue workers, with some already in trials, won’t be powerful enough to be of much use.
“The signal now has to be 1,000 times less powerful,” said Jeff Ross, Time Domain vice president for corporate development and strategy. “To go down a thousand times lower than that — they just won’t work.”
An FCC spokesman could not be reached for comment Friday. Some FCC sources acknowledge the new rules might weaken the signal’s strength, but they are unsure if companies have conducted appropriate tests.
UWB technology provides a faster and more secure way of sending wireless transmissions. Automakers could use the technology to build collision avoidance systems or improve airbags. Consumer products, from laptops to personal digital assistants, could use the equipment to send and receive video or audio.
One of its other proposed uses was for fire and rescue personnel. The powerful UWB signal can chew through flames, smoke and building materials to provide the firefighter’s three-dimensional location at all times, and it can be used to help map the inside of a burning building. It also sends back the firefighter’s heart rate, and the temperature around him, which can be used to decide firefighting tactics.
Houston rescue workers have been using UWB technology in trials, and Time Domain was granted a waiver by the FCC in 2000 to sell 2,500 of its “Radar Vision” equipment to law enforcement agencies.
“Radar Vision” uses UWB signals to spot motion behind walls, giving an edge to officers confronting a hostage situation, for instance. A handful of police agencies are testing UWB equipment now, with the aim of possibly using it in the future.
But “the products they have now won’t be legal to operate under these rules,” Ross said. The company doubts that the equipment they’ve been developing will be as effective under the FCC’s new rules, Ross said.
UWB wireless networks now won’t be able to pinpoint someone’s location as effectively, Florian Wireless Chief Executive Brian Valania said.
“We could find someone within an inch or two,” which is more accurate than any other global positioning system on the market now, he said. “There are going to be limiting factors to the things that make this a groundbreaking technology,” he said.
Houston rescue workers were expected to start using this equipment from Florian Wireless by May or June of this year, he said. He doesn’t know if the deal will go forward.
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02-15-2002, 11:11 PM #1
"Technology won’t rescue firefighters" - MSNBC
02-16-2002, 11:28 AM #2
Concerning these new tech items.....everything was covered but the solution to gaining access to the victims. Long after the WTC collaspe, personal alarms and Maydays by radio were heard, however the unimagineable mass preventing most from being reached until long after they were gone. In the attached photo taken late January.....FF's are still checking voids, while the mass shown is the lobby-16th floor, compacted five stories below street level. The twisted steel, and concrete debris still pose a hurdle this late in the day!
"All gave some...Some gave all!"
Lest we forget!"All gave some...Some gave all!"
9/11/01 Lest we forget!
02-16-2002, 02:13 PM #3
I must admit I'm not familiar with UWB (have to add that to my research list now!)
Generally, there is major problems with radio-location finding of firefighters in buildings. Getting within inches will help but not cure the fundemental issue.
Say we can find someone with 6" of their location. That can still be two seperate rooms -- in the case of duplex or similiar building, you may not even know for sure outside entrance to use!
Move that accuracy out to, oh, 8' and you're not only talking about doubt of room but which floor. 8' of accuracy with visibility is terrific -- it's not very good in bad visibility if you only have time to search one room (although TICs help that issue).
Like I said I'm not familiar with UWB, but I can't imagine it somehow magically gets by the "Triangulation" problem. Triangles are three sides -- every radio system I'm familiar with need at least three signals for a high degree of accuracy, especially to place something not only on a 2-dimensonal map but to include elevation to make a 3-D picture. To triangulate, you need three receivers, and they need to be aware of their relative locations on the fireground. Preferably each in very different locations. That's not impossible, but it is a good technical challenge!
02-16-2002, 02:43 PM #4
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- Jan 2002
- Washington, DC
Matt it wouldn't be too hard for departments that roll several apparatus to fires:
For my department, if each truck and chief's buggy had a transciever, we could have one to the front and rear of each building (on the trucks) and if the buggy were equipped with a mast, we could "penetrate" the third dimension, at least enough for accuracy to within floor level on a 4 storey building, I think. We might need a taller mast to have enough differentiation on high rises.
The transcievers themselves would have their location defined by a differentially-corrected GPS system. The physical relationship of the GPS reciever and the UWB tranceiver would be fixed, as they are permanently mounted.
Each firefighters location, status, and elevation could then be plotted on a plan view of the fireground. Ideally this plan view would include at least the outline of the building, say from a zoomed satellite photograph, if not the floorplan itself. Of course it'd be real neat to be able to have realtime satellite imagery, but...
Additionally, hand-held "avalanche beacon locators" could be used to locate firefighters as well.
Of course, my department can't handle the technology to handle step increases or get payroll done right. So i guess will stick with our eyes and ears.
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