Public safety personnel often work indoors, underground, and in other areas where GPS is denied or inaccurate. To obtain clear situational awareness, on-scene and remote commanders need to understand the area in which personnel are operating and have access to accurate real-time location of personnel, even in buildings they are visiting for the first time. In 2017, TRX Systems received funds through the Public Safety Innovation Accelerator Program (PSIAP) to improve the accuracy and capabilities of its NEON® Personnel Tracker product. In 2021, TRX Systems was awarded follow-on funding for a technology demonstration project with a public safety agency. Together, these projects aim to accelerate the availability of improved 3D location accuracy, easy to use 3D map data tools, and actionable, 3D visualization for first responder use cases.
Carol Politi, Principal Investigator*
* Team involved in 2020-NIST-PSIAP-TABA-01 Demonstration Project
In 2021, a proposal from TRX Systems was selected for a one-year award to complete a field deployment with Arlington County Fire Department (Virginia) under funding opportunity 2020-NIST-PSIAP-TABA-01. TRX Systems will conduct an extended field deployment with the personnel at one fire station of the Arlington County Fire Department and will utilize its NEON® Personnel Tracker solution for 8-months – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The objective of this deployment is to see how their personnel tracking system integrates with public safety personnel’s pre-planning and day-to-day operations and to develop and improve procedures related to the tracking equipment. TRX Systems will also collect and analyze performance data from the tracking system during the entire eight-month deployment.
In 2017, a proposal from TRX Systems was selected for a multiyear award to improve the accuracy and capabilities of an indoor personnel tracker under funding opportunity 2017-NIST-PSIAP-01. First Responder personnel often work indoors, underground, and in other areas without accurate GPS. Determining the location of public safety personnel working in areas without a clear view of the sky, and therefore without access to reliable GPS, and providing mechanisms to create, access and share map (building and asset) data, is the focus of this project. The objectives are to accelerate availability of improved location accuracy, comprehensive map data sources and tools, and 3D visualization to meet an array of first responder use cases using the following approaches.
Positioning systems are required that can determine responder locations indoors with a 3D accuracy requirement of better than 3 meters radius (95% probability), without beacons. Multiple capabilities will be added to consistently deliver better than 3 meter accuracy, including use of known building information, improved initialization (vehicle-based UWB), and integration of terrestrial beacon constraints.
Indoor mapping will be supported via both pre-planning and via real-time collaborative "signal and inertial SLAM" techniques (collection of inferred building data and signal maps that can be used for localization). A standards-compliant mechanism will be provided to synchronize with mapping databases (including BIM tools). A mobile pre-planning capability will allow first responders to easily annotate and share building information and routes, and support dynamic modeling of buildings based on a walk through by the responder. Large scale collaborative map fusion will be supported across responder accounts.
Responders need access to accurate and current building information, and vital sensor and point of interest information. The proposed developments will allow GIS & public safety personnel as well as building owners to deliver 3D map information to a collaborative database of maps. A lightweight, easy to use mapping capability will allow crowdsourced addition of information from building owners.
TRX Systems delivers products based on strong IP (16 US and 12 international patents on tracking and mapping methods) that provide 3D indoor location and dynamically map indoor areas where GPS is not available. For this project, TRX has teamed with NextNav, Harris County, TX and Arlington County VA, and is collaborating with Texas A&M University (TAMU), to ensure technical and operational requirements are met, and technology is delivered to the appropriate standards.
A key challenge is delivering seamless location and mapping capabilities across a broad array of first responder use cases. Fully tactical first responder operations require easy to use solutions, requiring no responder interaction. Another challenge is the effective fusion and use of map information coming from many different sources. TRX has already begun to implement such fusion and extending it to include the above sources is a key focus. Through our experience with location and mapping technologies and markets, and sustained engagement with our first responder partners, TRX will mitigate risks and validate the solution meets operational needs.
An important benefit and outcome is the rapid delivery to users of significantly increased location accuracy and significantly enhanced map data and tools, in a cost-effective solution already being embedded within multiple first responder devices and applications. The solution is poised to improve command effectiveness and safety for our first responders and the population they serve, and the innovations will be broadly disseminated throughout the technical developer community.