NASA builds AI platform for firefighters

NASA builds AI platform for firefighters

American space agency NASA has built an Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform capable of aiding firefighters when they enter a burning building.

The platform, called Audrey, is the product of a partnership between the agency’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) and the Department for Homeland Security (DHS).

This project forms part of the Next Generation First Responder program, which aims to identify ways firefighters, police and paramedics can stay safe while in the field.

Mass of data from AI platform

Audrey collects data about heat, gases and other signs of danger to help first responders get through the flames safely and quickly, letting them save victims.

To make the AI platform possible, the designers used several technologies developed by NASA and the Department of Defence. It’s been in the works for nine months.

Mark James, lead scientist of the Audrey project at JPL, explained that the platform works with mobile devices and fire equipment. “As a firefighter moves through an environment, Audrey could send alerts through a mobile device or head-mounted display,” he said.

Integrated with IoT

What makes it innovative is the fact that it’s not limited to one user and can track an entire team of firefighters. It sends recommendations to individuals on how they can work together more effectively.

It’s been designed to work alongside the Internet of Things, utilising devices and sensors that communicate with each other. For example, wearable tech attached to a firefighter’s jacket could provide information on their location.

The cloud plays a pivotal role here and allows Audrey to watch situations as they develop. It can analyse them and predict the exact resources that’ll be needed next, saving the firefighters much needed time.

Successful tests

The platform was demonstrated in June at the Public Safety Broadband Stakeholder Meeting, which was held by the Department of Commerce. During the presentation, it utilised several sensors and made safety recommendations, with field tests to follow within a year.

John Merrill, NGFR program manager for the DHS Science and Technology Directorate, said the technology improves the skillset of first responders in the field and helps them build new strengths.

“The proliferation of miniaturized sensors and Internet of Things devices can make a tremendous impact on first responder safety, connectivity, and situational awareness,” Merrill said. “The massive amount of data available to the first responder is incomprehensible in its raw state and must be synthesized into useable, actionable information.”

A guardian angel

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

“Most A.I. projects are rule-based. But what if you’re only getting part of the information? We use complex reasoning to simulate how humans think. That allows us to provide more useful info to firefighters than a traditional A.I. system.”

Related: Why IoT is hot right now for fire management