TRX Systems is expecting to deploy in 2013 its firefighter tracking location that uses a series of algorithms and in-building data to wirelessly transmit the location of personnel to command staff, the company announced.

Currently, most fire departments use PASS devices, which sound a loud, audible alert to notify others in the area that a firefighter is in distress. Such devices are integrated into firefighters’ self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), so they automatically arm when the air supply is engaged or when the SCBA is removed from its mounting bracket.

But an audible alarm isn’t as effective as wireless sensing systems, according to TRX Systems’ CEO Carol Politi. Still, wireless isn’t perfect. Politi said current wireless solutions have something in common: failure in locating individuals due to in-building interference because radio signals are blocked by the structural components of the building.

In-building interference was the impetus for the company’s TRX Sentrix solution. The solution includes a set of sensors about the size of a deck of cards worn by firefighters, Politi said. Sensors track their geographical location inside a building and calculate location using such data to model each person’s actions.

“The sensors detect human movement … that lets us pick up information and calculate location,” she added.

Tracking units worn by firefighters transmit data and voice through two-radios or cellular devices, and then transmits it to a command laptop with a mobile radio attached. First arriving trucks are able to log-in into the software while command staff is on route and begin tracking personnel, Politi said. Then, chief officers log-in when they arrive on scene by opening an application on their laptop.

This year, the company will test the system’s integration into the WASP project in partnership with Globe turnout gear. The company is leading the effort with the Department of Army, National Protection Center to integrate physiological data acquired from a bioharness (developed by Zephyr Technology) and location monitoring device (developed by TRX) into a lightweight system that can track a firefighter’s location and vital signs.

“Trials continue this year to make sure the systems are hardened,” Politi said. “It needs to spend months with firefighters in a training environment before brought to market.”

It’s tough to estimate cost, Politi said, but “a medium-size deployment may be around $5,000.”

Related story