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CSIRO's new wireless technology to help people in emergencies

01 August, 2008

CSIRO is developing new wireless technologies for locating, tracking, sensing and communicating in areas where global positioning systems (GPS) do not work.

CSIRO is developing new wireless technologies for locating, tracking, sensing and communicating in areas where global positioning systems (GPS) do not work.

The new high-accuracy terrestrial localisation systems are suitable for applications as diverse as tracking workers in emergency situations to following cyclists racing around a track.

CSIRO has signed a $1 million collaboration to develop the technology for emergency purposes in conjunction with Emergency Management Australia (EMA), Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency and the National Security Science and Technology Branch within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Federal Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, who is the Minister responsible for EMA, says the technology could prove to be “an invaluable tool for Australian emergency service workers, especially when searching for injured or lost people in hazardous situations. It has the potential to save lives.”
This contract aims to pave the way for commercialisation of the technology for use in emergency management to start in about three years.

CSIRO recently commercialised the technology for use in tracking race horses and motor cars with Sydney company, Trantek Systems Pty Limited.  The early solution uses fixed base station infrastructure located around the perimeter of the race track.

ICT Centre Principal Research Scientist, Dr Mark Hedley, says the new high-accuracy terrestrial localisation systems use radio frequency tracking technologies and aim to be cost effective.

They consist of a network of wireless nodes, which can be combined with sensors to enable monitoring of environmental variables.
Dr Hedley said that emergency personnel sent into a dangerous situation could, for instance, wear sensors which monitor their heart rate and core temperature, as well as gas or radiation levels in the surrounding environment.

“Exact readings of these factors at the location where the personnel are standing can then be provided back to a base station”, Dr Hedley said.
The research is being undertaken within CSIRO’s ICT Centre’s Wireless Technologies Laboratory, which develops cutting-edge technologies for antennas, millimetre-wave devices and wireless communications systems. 

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