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New Responder Location-Tracking Technology Successfully Tested

Posted: March 11, 2021

POINTER will enhance situational awareness at challenging incident scenes by locating first responders via low frequency magnetic fields.

The Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory recently completed successful field testing of a new location tracking technology to enhance situational awareness for first responders. The technology is called POINTER, which stands for Precision Outdoor and Indoor Navigation and Tracking for Emergency Responders.

POINTER is a precision positioning sensor that locates first responders via low frequency magnetic fields. Unlike some existing location-tracking technologies that use electromagnetic waves, POINTER can penetrate most natural materials like dirt, earth, water and thin metals from a standoff distance of 70 meters, determining an individual's exact position within a structure within 1 centimeter of accuracy.

Maintaining situational awareness not only enhances real-time response efforts but also saves valuable time when a responder is injured or lost. However, this can be a significant challenge when line-of-sight is not possible. In these circumstances, assistive technologies like POINTER can save lives by providing accurate, real-time positioning data.

POINTER uses magnetoquasistatic fields to 3-dimensionally locate responders to within 1 centimeter in emergency situations. (DHS Video by Science & Technology Directorate/Released)

S&T will continue field testing POINTER in the coming months, leading up to operational field testing with several fire response agencies throughout the country in the Spring and Summer of 2021. A commercial product is projected to be available in early 2022.

Version 1 will be designed for use in single-family homes, warehouses and buildings that are 3 stories or less. Future versions of POINTER will accurately track first responders in high-rise buildings, outdoors and in subterranean environments at a greater distance.

This article is based on content in the
March 11, 2021 InfoGram.

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