2007-2008

ECE Professors on the Cutting Edge of Emergency Response Technology

Researchers in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering here at WPI recently learned that they will be awarded a $1 million grant from the federal Department of Homeland Security to continue developing their "Precision Indoor Personnel Locator" (PPL) systems for emergency responders.  The project began in 1999 following the warehouse fire in Worcester, MA that claimed the lives of six Worcester firefighters.  Since then, professors David Cyganski, R. James Duckworth, Sergey N. Makarov, William R. Michalson, and John A. Orr have been working to develop location and tracking systems for emergency responders.

Picture on the right: Professors David Cyganski and R. James Duckworth receiving the check for nearly $1 million from Charlie Dickinson, Deputy Assistant Administrator for the United States Fire Administration.

To aid in their research efforts, the PPL team began hosting an annual workshop, first held in 2006, to provide a forum for researchers and developers working in the important area of indoor location and tracking of personnel to share technical knowledge and to define the state of the art, focusing on emergency response situations. The focus of this workshop is zero pre-installed infrastructure tracking, that is, systems that do not require any previously installed wiring or equipment in the target building, such as is required by RFID-type systems. Further, the focus is on systems which provide complete tracking and position information on all equipped personnel to the incident command post. Simpler approaches ("homing devices") are also included in the Workshop.  

On August 6 & 7, 2007, WPI hosted the 2nd Annual "Precision Indoor Personnel Location and Tracking for Emergency Responders" Technology Workshop.  Select representatives of the governmental and user communities participated in the event.  

The $1 million award for the PPL project was recently covered in the news by WBZ Channel 4 and the Worcester Telegram.  For more information on the research and workshops, visit the Personnel Precision Locator Project's website.

August 6, 2007