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NASA’s artificial intelligence could be firefighters’ ‘guardian angel’

AUDREY can track an entire team of firefighters and provide each member with customized information tailored to keep them safe


PASADENA, Calif. — NASA recently introduced AUDREY, an artificial intelligence system that could revolutionize how firefighters safely battle fires.

AUDREY, the Assistant for Understanding Data through Reasoning, Extraction and sYnthesis, is part of the Department of Homeland Security’s Next Generation First Responder program, an initiative meant to develop new ways to keep first responders safe through enhanced situational awareness and communication through data.

The AI has the ability to “track an entire team of firefighters, sending relevant signals to individuals while helping make recommendations for how they could work together,” stated a NASA news release.

A prototype helmet for future first responders created by the DHS. (Photo/DHS Science and Technology Directorate)
A prototype helmet for future first responders created by the DHS. (Photo/DHS Science and Technology Directorate)

AUDREY would sync with sensors worn by first responders to give department officials a high-level overview of a fire scene, mass-casualty incident or disaster zone. The idea is to create a map of the situation that includes crucial information like the GPS location of emergency personnel on the ground, temperature differences between rooms and the presence of dangerous chemicals or biohazards.

“When first responders are connected to all these sensors, the AUDREY agent becomes their guardian angel,” said Edward Chow, the manager of Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Civil Program Office and AUDREY manager. “Because of all this data the sensor sees, firefighters won’t run into the next room where the floor will collapse.”

AUDREY functions as a cloud-based software, using all of the data from its sensors to watch an event, learn and make predictions about the next best course of action. It is designed to recognize different roles of first responders, and provides customized and potentially life-saving information to each individual.

‘Since AUDREY knows the roles of everyone who receives her data, she only supplies the relevant information that is appropriate for them,” Mark James, a lead AUDREY scientist said.

Tested over the last five years by NASA and the Department of Defense, AUDREY is said to have the potential to make a “tremendous impact on first responder safety, connectivity and situational awareness.”

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