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IU lab wins $8 million award in pursuit of 3D tracking of first responders

Crisis Technologies Innovation Lab will host competitions to create tools to increase safety, effectiveness in everyday and disaster environments

Apr 12, 2021

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The Crisis Technologies Innovation Lab in Indiana University’s Pervasive Technology Institute has been awarded $8 million to help create life-saving technologies for first responders.

A firefighter running up a burning staircase
A series of competitions managed by IU’s Crisis Technologies Innovation Lab and its partner could help find a solution for indoor 3D tracking during emergencies.Photo courtesy of UITS

Thanks to funding from the Public Safety Communications Research Division of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Crisis Technologies Innovation Lab and its partner, KSM Consulting, will administer a series of competitions for companies, entrepreneurs and students to find the best solution for indoor 3D tracking for first responders.

“Tracking is a huge problem for first responders,” said David Wild, a professor in the IU Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering and director of the lab. “GPS just tells you roughly within a few meters where on earth somebody is. It’s not accurate enough to tell you what room in a building somebody is in, nor can it ascertain elevation properly in a building.

“If there’s a building on fire or there’s a search-and-rescue scenario after an earthquake, the incident commanders need to know exactly where all the first responders are. If one building is in danger of collapse, they need to know who to tell to get out. Right now, there’s no technology really mature enough to help them do that.”

Competitors’ innovations will be tested and judged at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Edinburgh, Indiana, which includes 190 structures and more than 1.8 miles of tunnels on 1,000 acres. Entrants with the most success in the most environments will be awarded prize money from the initial $8 million to further develop their technology, Wild said.

In a time of unprecedented crises and increasing dependency on a fragile technology infrastructure, Crisis Technologies Innovation Lab uses modern data and informatics technologies to prepare for and prevent crises, make crisis response scalable and more equitable, and improve recovery after crises happen. As such, this work falls directly in line with the lab’s end goal of providing the greatest good, Wild said.;

“David and the CTIL lab have developed a very smart and refined approach to improving the efficiency of disaster aid,” said Jeff Zaleski, interim vice provost for research at IU Bloomington. “It is an impressive platform, and we are excited about this new initiative to rapidly develop innovations to meet critical first-responder needs.”

“This will enable IU to have a major impact,” Wild said. “The partnership with NIST will change the face of first-responder technologies, greatly increasing safety and effectiveness in everyday and disaster environments.”

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IU’s world-class researchers have driven innovation and creative initiatives that matter for 200 years. From curing testicular cancer to collaborating with NASA to search for life on Mars, IU has earned its reputation as a world-class research institution. Supported by $854 million last year from our partners, IU researchers are building collaborations and uncovering new solutions that improve lives in Indiana and around the globe.

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