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Anaheim Fire Department Deploys Multipronged RFID System
Radio frequency identification will help the California organization monitor the location and status of not only firefighters, equipment and supplies, but also disaster victims.
The system will include VerdaSee's active 433 MHz tags and AAID's long-range readers, which Pete Martin, AAID's president, says function solely as RF receivers, and not as transmitters. "Our long-range readers are unique in the industry," he says. "Most readers are active, meaning they generate a wake-up signal to pull information from tags. So our readers don't make any noise at all. We can tune our readers down to very short ranges of one inch, but also out to long ranges of 300 feet. They can listen to zones at an emergency site and do real-time inventory to know where all of the firefighters are, and then zero in on one particular tag in a very small area within a zone."
The tags transmit very short, 9-millisecond signals at intervals determined by motion sensors. When moving, a tag beacons once every second and a half; if it ceases movement, it beacons every 15 or 30 seconds. "If the tag is moving," Martin states, "then you can determine the fireman is moving around in the fire, and that tells you, typically, that he's okay." But if the tag stops moving, he notes, then another fireman can take a handheld reader with a directional antenna near the area of the tag's last beacon, in an effort to pinpoint the motionless tag and, ultimately, the firefighter wearing it.
The tags and long-range readers communicate via a proprietary air-interface protocol. The firefighter-tracking system will include portable nodes in fireproof boxes, about the size of a child's lunchbox. Each portable node will contain an AAID RFID interrogator connected to a Wi-Fi card that communicates with other portable nodes to form an encrypted, secure mesh network. This network will communicate with a computer used by a firefighting official, and with handheld RFID readers fireman carry when searching for tag-wearing colleagues.
As firemen proceed into a building, they can take these portable nodes into the structure and place them in stairwells and other specific areas. "You can cover a 10-story building that covers a city block with three nodes," says Reuben Vasquez, VerdaSee's president and CEO.
All of the systems in Anaheim are presently in the installation or planning phase, Logue says, and the pace at which new ideas and uses are being discovered is gathering speed. "RFID and the world of public safety are now moving together to make it a safer work place for the firefighter," he states, "and to make the day-to day-operations more efficient."
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