The role of the Internet of Things in emergency response

The role of the Internet of Things in emergency response [Image: stevecoleimages via iStock]

Vodafone has announced it has joined forces with Emergency One – the UK’s leading manufacturer of fire and special vehicles – to equip emergency vehicles with the latest Internet of Things (IoT) technologies.

It comes at a time when the IoT has been in the headlines, with demonstrations and displays of connected cars at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2017) in Las Vegas. Auto Express stated that CES 2017 showed “that the worlds of cars and tech really are poised to become one”.

Vehicles are constantly becoming more connected and emergency response vehicles are among the most important to do so. Communication with the infrastructure and with other vehicles will allow for quicker response times and more effective decision-making. This will all contribute towards saving lives, the ultimate aim for those working in the emergency services.

Emergency One said that it has connected its vehicles’ on-board computer consoles to Vodafone’s dedicated, 4G-enabled IoT network to help keep them working at all times. It has allowed fire, rescue and other emergency vehicles to become smarter at a crucial time in the year. There are often increases in the number of fires in homes and businesses during winter, typically the result of heating equipment.

Vodafone said that the new system complements the current emergency radio system used by fire and rescue crews. It is intended to allow central command and fleet engineers to better track the location of individual vehicles. This is a vital tool in remote areas where it might be difficult to communicate with dispatch as well as in situations where numerous engines are en route to an incident.

The Emergency One console, known as e1Fleet, is also able to transmit onboard diagnostic information across Vodafone’s nationwide IoT network directly from the vehicle cab to fleet management and to Emergency One.

This will then allow fire and rescue teams and Emergency One to remotely check a vehicle in order to ensure it’s running smoothly. This can prevent breakdowns at crucial times or costly repairs caused by exacerbating faults.

The system is expected to save fire and rescue teams money that would have been spent on maintenance charges over the life of the vehicles and speed up incident response times. The speed of travel and fuel consumption can also be monitored constantly to ensure all fire engines are running as efficiently as possible.

It is intended to keep more fire engines and emergency vehicles on the roads where they are most needed and allows fire departments to spend their funding on vital life-saving equipment rather than repairs.

Elliot Boyce, project manager at Emergency One, said: “Teaming up with Vodafone, we are proud of our innovative e1Fleet Telematics System, which is used by a number of fire and rescue services around the UK. We have full-time software engineers, along with electrical engineers, working daily to improve this system for our customers.”

Mr Boyce went on to add: “Our system has proved successful in allowing us to continually monitor the fire vehicles and provide a quick response to any issues that may arise. It assists the fire and rescue services with the crucial tasks that they perform all year round.”

The IoT can clearly have a real impact on the emergency services. Providing connected devices that run quicker and are capable of sharing real-time information across multiple parties could be vital to saving lives and protecting buildings from devastating fires.

In the future, analysts have predicted that first responders like firefighters will make use of wearable technology. This could include heart rate monitors, which will allow decision-makers to keep an eye on firefighters’ levels of physical distress, therefore allowing their supervisors to withdraw them from dangerous situations before they exhaust themselves or cause themselves physical harm.

It is becoming clear that the IoT is offering advantages to fields that may not have initially thought they would benefit. How soon it becomes the standard is yet to be seen.