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Geolocation LocATER System for First Responders

June 14, 2017

ECE Associate Professor Taskin Padir was awarded a $200K NSF grant to design "LocATER: Localization and Accountability Technology for Emergency Responders".


Abstract Source: NSF

This PFI: AIR Technology Translation project focuses on translating research discoveries on autonomous robot navigation to develop a localization and personal accountability report check technology to fill the need for a geolocation system with acceptable accuracy in GPS-denied environments. The LocATER, a wearable localization and accountability report check technology, has significant commercial, industrial, emergency response and military applications. It will transform operations and efficiency of emergency response teams by providing the incident commanders with a tool to make metric-based response, rescue and recovery decisions. The LocATER can enhance the safety of personnel working in environments where GPS and WiFi signals are not available.

The project will result in a low-cost, integrated proof-of-concept of the LocATER. The research team will develop the LocATER technology with three unique features: (i) ability to accurately localize firefighters inside a burning building to a quadrant and floor, (ii) functionality for providing firefighters with a tool to quickly complete an accountability report check, reducing radio traffic and overhead associated with them, and (iii) low-cost, portable, and light-weight design that can operate without external reference signals such as GPS, WiFi or other pre-deployed systems. These features will make the LocATER technology more advantageous in terms of usability, efficiency, efficacy and practical deployments when compared to the leading competing localization technologies in this market space.  

This project addresses the following technology gaps as it translates from research discovery toward commercial application. A 2-dimensional simultaneous localization and mapping algorithm will be designed and implemented on an embedded system by fusing the inertial and visual odometry information. The position and velocity data from an inertial measurement unit will be fused with barometric pressure data to determine the floor information. A holistic model-based design approach will be adopted to develop and validate a system that will meet size, weight and power requirements acceptable for emergency responder operating conditions. In addition, personnel involved in this project, undergraduate and graduate students as well as the postdoctoral researchers will receive entrepreneurship and technology translation experiences through participation in Northeastern's Entrepreneurship Bootcamp, an 8-week program aimed at enhancing participating teams' understanding of technology translation and commercialization. Furthermore, the project personnel will be empowered to attend and participate in the rich lineup of events within the Boston?s robotics and internet-of-things innovation ecosystem.

The project engages the Boston Fire Department to seek critical feedback throughout the design process and access to testing facilities, and a number of firefighting equipment manufacturers to identify pathways for integration with existing products in this technology translation effort from research discovery toward commercial reality.