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Google Glass app arms firefighters with data

N.C. fire engineer marries his background in computer engineering with firefighting to develop award-winning app

Imagine an application that lets firefighters receive field data directly to a display inside an SCBA facemask. That’s exactly what Fire Engineer Patrick Jackson is developing with a new Google Glass-compatible version of his FirefighterLog mobile app that provides location and other data to firefighters.

Jackson currently works as an engineer at the Rocky Mount (N.C.) Fire Department where he has the opportunity to marry his background of computer engineering and firefighting operations to develop the FirefighterLog app, available on iOS and Android devices as well. Jackson’s application was chosen as Google Glass Explorer Invitation Contest winner, letting him access the technology that is expected to be released publicly in April. The company also developed a video about the FirefighterLog’s capabilities.

“I had no idea Google would be contacting me to do a video of the applications but was very excited when they did,” he said.

The company had been following Jackson’s activity on Google+ and saw his Indiegogo campaign, which raised the $2,000 needed to purchase the Google Glass device.

“I received a lot of support from firefighters and my family,” he said.

How it works
The FirefighterLog converts text dispatch data into Google navigator to provide firefighter-engineers with GPS-based driving directions to an incident. When users receive a text message from dispatch, the app uses mapping software to display location information in conjunction with CADpage, a separate app users must download first. CADpage receives short message service (SMS) pages from a centralized computer-aided dispatch system.

In conjunction with CADpage, the FirefighterLog presents options for mapping the call, driving directions and other data to a registered user’s smartphone — using cloud computing over commercial wireless networks.

“Integrating it directly into the CAD system allows for quicker notification and more complete information available to first responders using secure communications,” Jackson said.

The app also displays hydrants and water supplies on Google maps, offers automatic streaming of RadioReference scanner feeds, records response times and stores account and call history — all in the cloud.

Exterior only
However, Google glass is not rugged enough to be used in the field.

“Right now, it is somewhat limited to exterior work,” Jackson said. “I think there is a place in the fire service, but in its current form it will not fit inside the SCBA mask. It may evolve to that, but right now it is not possible.”

However, fire personnel working outside the structure, such as incident commander or safety officer, can use the Google Glass application.

“For example, personnel can have them on and be placed on all sides of a structure where they can stream video back to an incident commander and provide a view of the other side of the building,” he said.

Importing pre-incident plan and occupancy data will be offered in the future, Jackson said. In addition, he hopes to incorporate into the app a library of information on vehicle models to help first responders quickly extradite victims.

Beyond fire
The Google Glass version also can be used by hazmat teams, Jackson said.

“It can be worn inside a hazmat suit to access information or stream video back to the incident commander, who then can send information back to the person working the scene,” he said. “There is a lot of potential with this type of technology.”

As far as EMS applications, Jackson believes there are some HIPPA concerns over the use of video on Google Glass.

“I think eventually there will be a place for it in EMS,” he said. “It could stream video of a critical patient to an ER doctor who can provide further instructions. That doctor could see what is going, and it all can be done hands-free.”

FirefighterLog on Google Glass apps is free, Jackson said.