NIST awards CMU $3.2M to help firefighters and first responders


June 27, 2017

The US Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology has recently awarded $38.5 million to 33 different research and development projects that are aimed specifically at advancing broadband communications technologies for first responders. The five key areas these projects cover are location-based services, public safety analytics, research and prototyping platforms, resilient systems that work in poor conditions, and devices that shift from a traditional radio system to a cellular system.

Three distinct projects at CMU were selected as recipients of these grants. One of the grants is for an ECE project titled “An Infrastructure-Free Localization System for Firefighters,” led by Anthony Rowe and Bruno Sinopoli. Working with a team from the Wireless, Sensing and Embedded Systems Lab at CMU, Rowe and Sinopoli are also collaborating with the Pittsburgh-based Bosch Research and Technology Center to help improve accountability for firefighters.

The project aims to provide fire safety chiefs with a live feed on a tablet or computer that can show the position of each firefighter within a burning structure. The main challenge in this project lies in creating a system that doesn’t assume any previous knowledge of the structure’s layout—that is, the system must work independently of the building’s infrastructure, which, when burning, is unstable and unreliable.