By Carol Politi
The 6th annual Precision Indoor Location and Tracking workshop was held this week at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. One hundred and forty five attendees from 36 different organizations attended to discuss progress, research, and requirements in indoor location and tracking. This workshop uniquely brings together industry, academia, and users to review deployment experience, hash out requirements, and discuss indoor location challenges specific to the critical application of firefighter and overall first responder safety. It continues to be the best forum for establishing the technical and commercial partnerships that are driving better and better solutions to the market - and those that will support broad distribution of these solutions.
The most impactful session of the entire conference was the discussion by Chief John Sullivan, Operations Deputy Chief of the Worcester Fire Department. Chief Sullivan profiled the tragedy in Worcester that drove the first focus on the requirement for indoor location in support of firefighter safety. The Worcester Cold Storage Warehouse Fire lead to the death of 6 firefighters, and the potentially preventable loss of life during this and other incidents continues to be a driving force for those of us developing and delivering solutions for infrastructure-free indoor location.
Unlike past years, the actual workshop was sponsored by the S&T Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security. This sponsorship allowed participation by a broad spectrum of those working in this area. The workshop was kicked off by Jalal Mapar, Program Manager at DHS S&T (who manages, in addition to other programs, the Geospatial Location Accountability and Navigation System for Emergency Responders, or GLANSER program). There were many firsts in this year’s conference:
First demonstration (“sneak peak”) of the GLANSER location system. During the first year of the GLANSER program, DHS sponsored two teams to develop competing technologies. One of the teams was led by Boeing/Argon ST and included TRX Systems and Thales. The other team was led by Honeywell and included Time Domain and Harris. During this second phase of the program, the team consolidated. The second phase team consists of Honeywell, Boeing/Argon ST, and TRX Systems. This consolidated GLANSER team reviewed the plan for the final system during the conference. Additionally, both year 1 teams demonstrated the technology developed and TRX Systems demonstrated the product it has spun out of GLANSER (with additional support from NSF, the Army, DARPA and TSWG) for early commercial applications.
First consolidation in technical approaches. While there were broad discussions regarding potential new technologies that might be applied to the challenge of infrastructure-free, indoor location, for the first time it appeared that the overall approach to the problem had consolidated across the industry. The challenge is one requiring a multitude of sensors, sensor fusion, and RF technologies. Progress in each of these base sensor areas was discussed as was progress in developing and enhancing location algorithms and in fielding integrated system solutions.
First commercial deployments were profiled. For the first time at this conference, commercial deployments were reviewed. Admittedly, this was a first that TRX Systems is most proud of since early adopters such as Singapore Civil Defence Force are among the first end users of the TRX Systems Sentrix Personnel Tracking System. This early adopter represents a new stage of maturity for the indoor location market.
First time this forum profiled the vast commercial opportunities for indoor location technology. Both Qualcomm and Verizon attended and spoke at WPI this year - and pointed to the fact that the latest commecial platforms now contain an array of MEMS and other sensors critical to indoor location.
It was also announced that the National Institute of Science and Technology will start a center focused on the test and evaluation aspects (funded by the Department of Homeland Security) of the systems delivering this critical indoor tracking and locating function.
The overall conference agenda profiles a significant DHS & overall industry investment in location and tracking. The organizations and companies participating (in order of the Agenda) included:
There was so much ground covered during this conference it was not possible to discuss them in a single post - stay tuned!