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WPI to host international workshop focused on technology solutions for first responders

Worcester, Mass. Worcester Polytechnic Institute, a leader in the development of technology for safeguarding the lives and health of first responders, will host the Seventh Annual International Workshop on Precision Indoor Personnel Location and Tracking Technology on Aug. 6 and 7.

And in a first-ever public demonstration, the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate's first responder location system--known as GLANSER--will be subjected to a rigorous test designed and executed by a team of first responders.

Sponsored by the Science and Technology Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the workshop will also feature technology demonstrations by more than a dozen companies, universities and safety groups, on Monday, Aug. 6, from 3:15 to 5:15 p.m. in the Campus Center. It is designed to provide a forum for researchers and developers working in indoor location and tracking to share technical knowledge and to define the current state of tracking technologies.

The workshop will focus on tracking of first responders as well as systems that provide complete tracking and position information on all equipped personnel. Developed in 2006 by WPI's precision location research team, the workshop brings together all of the key players in indoor locationacademic researchers, corporate research and development teams, representatives of federal, state, and local governments and funding agencies, and first respondersto assess the state of the field and share ideas. It remains the only comprehensive national forum on this topic.

"We recognized early on that this was an enormous technical challenge," said James Duckworth, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at WPI and a member of the conference organizing committee. "No one group of researchers could tackle it on its own. Through this annual workshop, we have fostered an engaged and active global community all focused on solving the problem and giving first responders the technology they need to do their jobs with greater safety."

Duckworth said this year's program is filled with important sessions. "There has never been a more critical time to develop technologies that benefit first responders," he said. "This year's workshop will highlight some of those key technologies and showcase how far these innovations have come over the past decade."

The Geospatial Location Accountability and Navigation System for Emergency Responders (GLANSER)--funded by the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate and developed by a team led by Honeywell--will be tested in a building on WPI's campus on Tuesday, Aug. 7, from 8 a.m. to noon. The testing will involve two scenarios, a search and rescue mission to locate a lost firefighter and an attempt to help two members of a firefighting team who become separated and find each other. The Worcester Fire Department will design and execute the tests. The actual building is not being disclosed to the developers and first responders until the day of the test to make the exercise more realistic.

Precision indoor location technology is designed to help firefighters, police officers, and EMTs quickly locate and rescue colleagues who become lost, disabled, or trapped inside buildings. According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), becoming lost or trapped inside buildings was the second leading cause of firefighter fatalities in 2011. The inability to precisely locate and track first responders inside the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001, contributed to difficulties in managing the response to that disaster, as it did during a 1999 warehouse fire in Worcester when six firefighters died after becoming lost in the building while trying to locate civilians or other firefighters.

Separately, a session on military and training systems on Aug. 6 at 10:30 a.m. is expected to draw significant attention. Topics to be covered include a next-generation personal navigator, an update on a dismounted soldier navigation device, and other tracking and positioning systems. On Aug. 7 starting at 10:20 a.m. there will be working groups and a panel defining the current state of the art for location and tracking systems and to identify new technology directions for first responders.

Follow the workshop via Twitter @WPINews and use hashtag #WPIPPL2012 to join the conversation.

Contact: Andy Baron
Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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