Tracking Location from the Sole of a Shoe
May 10, 2022
Tue, 05/10/2022 - 14:00
UC Irvine, UCI MicroSystems Laboratory
These days, most of us know how to tell where we are. Advances in Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) technology allow us to find our location from anywhere our GPS-enabled smartphones are working.
So, what about when our smartphones are not working? Networks get jammed, infrastructure goes down, or sometimes you’re just inside of a concrete building. If you’ve ever been to a subway station or skyrise building, you know that the coordinates shown on your GPS are approximate at best; it can’t tell you what floor you’re on.
For firefighters, this challenge is especially critical; if there’s an injured firefighter in a building, they need location tracking to be rescued. How else should the incident commander know where to send resources?
Numerous firefighter fatalities can be attributed to the lack of indoor location tracking systems. That’s why, in 2016, a stakeholder group of public safety, government, industry, and academic experts agreed that first responders need indoor positioning systems that are accurate within one meter—not just “approximate.”
NIST’s Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) Division is accelerating research into indoor tracking measurement systems for first responder operations—and the solution may be under our feet.
The challenge with indoor location
Even if concrete walls and underground settings block outside signals, Internet of Things (IoT) infrastructure such as pre-installed sensors, WiFi access points, or Bluetooth beacons could render a first responder's indoor location. But what happens if IoT data is proprietary, or if power goes out at a scene? First responders need an indoor tracking solution that they can rely on, even when infrastructure-based circumstances are subject to change.
NIST funded the University of California Irvine to research an infrastructure-free localization system as part of its Public Safety Innovation Accelerator Program (PSIAP). Researchers have found a breakthrough in how a microchip with motion sensors and cell signals may determine someone's position with impressive accuracy — something once thought to be a hopeless challenge.
An innovative framework for indoor localization and tracking
UC Irvine's Ultimate Navigation Chip (uNavChip) aims to design, build, and demonstrate a Personal Navigation System (PNS) that works for hours in GPS-denied environments. This novel approach uses three different algorithms—deterministic, probabilistic, and cooperative. These approaches merge them into a single platform with inertial sensors mounted in the sole of a boot. The device can locate the wearer within a meter.
Inertial sensors are designed to sense acceleration and turn rate. Smartphones and pedometers use these sensors to determine how many steps you’ve taken. If you can measure acceleration, you can estimate speed. If you know something’s speed and how long it’s been moving, you can estimate how far it’s traveled.
However, inertial sensors can only determine where an individual is relative to where they were, not their actual location. The uNavChip project combines inertial sensors with other technologies to achieve location tracking for the first time from the sole of a shoe. Transmitters on the shoes use signals such as cellular, AM/FM radio, WiFi, and lower satellites which are powerful indoors but not intended for navigation. Co-principal investigator (PI) Zak Kassas calls these “signals of opportunity,” which the team can use as a navigation system to track location.
Shoes are unique when it comes to our walking motion. They are reliably stationary during one portion of the walk—at zero velocity. While in motion, the system also uses foot-to-foot ranging to detect the distance from one shoe to another.
When several “agents” outfitted with inertial sensors are moving around within a building, the chip’s ranging-measuring capabilities are used for relative distance measurements between team members to generate an infrastructure-free signal and improve the location accuracy of the foot-mounted sensors.
UC Irvine, UCI MicroSystems Laboratory
A self-contained, portable solution
The team was able to miniaturize and integrate their components into a single 1 cubic-centimeter system—about the size of a cube of sugar. And the team has also demonstrated the feasibility of using cellular signals of opportunity for location, and it has done so while getting within 1.5-meter accuracy by leveraging a chip-scale PNS.
At the moment, uNavChip mostly stands to benefit the research community, but the chances are good that the technology could be commercialized for biometrics, prosthetics, construction, defense, underground mining, and underwater vehicle industries. For NIST, the critical impact of breakthrough indoor location tracking research is that it may one day help ensure the safety and efficiency of first responders and reduce firefighter fatalities.
UC Irvine, UCI MicroSystems Laboratory
From the lab to first responders’ feet
Recently, the UC Irvine team visited another Department of Commerce agency, the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), to validate a high-precision motion-camera system with promising results. Now, they’re working with the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) to demonstrate their firefighter tracking and guidance technology in local operations. Once successful in Orange County, the technology will be extending its reach to other counties in California and nationwide. Soon, losing a life due to poor indoor navigation may become a thing of the past. You might even be able to find your way out of a subway tunnel successfully too.
For more information on NIST’s location-based services research and projects, visit PSCR’s website. The First Responder Smart Tracking Challenge launches in early 2022; sign up to receive updates on competition rules, timing, and prizes.
Bureaus and Offices
National Institute of Standards and Technology
Driving Innovation for Disaster Planning, Response, and Recovery
May 5, 2022
Thu, 05/05/2022 - 09:56
First responder network
Jeremy Zollo, Chief Market Engagement Officer, First Responder Network Authority
Every hurricane season, first responders face great challenges as they protect their communities during these storms. The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) remains committed to ensuring responders have the tools they need to face these storms. From support offered by the FirstNet Authority to ensuring the latest innovation in solutions from our network contractor AT&T, we are focused on advancing technology to make disaster planning, response, and recovery easier.
Planning with Partners
Collaboration is key to facing disasters. Better outcomes happen when information is shared with all the stakeholders that are involved. At the FirstNet Authority, we offer two types of support that can help agencies work with partners to prepare for hurricanes.
For pre-planning support, our staff work with agencies that are preparing for impending disasters. We help gather all the appropriate partners and discuss the scope of the event, locations where communications will be needed, and determine what broadband capabilities responders will use. This information is provided to AT&T, and they can create a tailored plan to meet the needs of that event.
We also offer an exercise inject catalog with hundreds of injects and discussion questions related to common public safety broadband activities. These exercises allow agencies to practice different scenarios to identify the strengths and challenges before disasters hit.
Just a few weeks ago, my colleagues were in Florida for the National Hurricane Conference. This annual event is an opportunity for the nation’s emergency managers and other responders to gather and learn about the latest in hurricane preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation. We were honored to participate, meet with public safety personnel from across the country, and hear some of the challenges faced by responders today. This feedback is critical to ensuring the network continues to meet its needs.
Dedicated Disaster Response and Recovery Tools
Hurricanes can wreak havoc on communities quickly, damaging infrastructure and properties and risking lives. As public safety agencies begin response and recovery efforts, they need solutions that can keep up with them and work wherever they need to go. FirstNet subscribers have access to several public safety-centric innovations that are designed with this in mind – keeping responders connected and communicating.
The Advanced Network Status Tool shows tower status and outages on the FirstNet network. This view can be checked after a storm hits to see where coverage is present and where sites may be compromised. This information allows decision-makers to adapt operational plans during response and recovery.
When public safety needs to communicate with non-traditional partners, such as public works and utilities, FirstNet subscribers can use the Uplift Request Tool to provide these Extended Primary users temporary elevation to the same priority level as Primary users. This ensures all entities remain connected and able to communicate to coordinate resources.
When communications infrastructure is damaged or destroyed in a hurricane, FirstNet subscribers have access to a dedicated fleet of 150 deployables for on-demand coverage. There are several asset options available to meet the needs of each event, including an aerostat, satellite cells on drones (cells on wings), and satellite cells on light trucks (SatCOLTs). The fleet also includes more than 50 Compact Rapid Deployables (CRDs). These small, portable assets can be set up by a single person and are nimble enough to be transported over difficult terrain.
The newly launched FirstNet Emergency Response Kit is packed with devices that agencies can hand out quickly after a hurricane hits. The kits hold more than 20 devices (smartphones and MiFi devices) that are ready to use when additional device support is needed.
Hurricane response is a huge undertaking for public safety. Responders need reliable communications to keep everyone safe and support their communities. FirstNet subscribers can use their FirstNet-enabled devices for push-to-talk (PTT) capabilities, reserving radio channels for more critical conversations. There are two 3GPP Mission Critical standards-based options for PTT on FirstNet, with solutions for land mobile radio interoperability, PTT calling over Wi-Fi, and video streaming.
After the Storm – Looking Ahead
After the storm, reviewing the successes and challenges of the event can provide invaluable information to first responders. This feedback can help prepare for the next disaster, highlighting what went well and what resources are still needed. At the FirstNet Authority, we offer a post-inquiry review program to examine how communications and technology were used during the event. Our staff facilitates discussions among all involved agencies to capture successes, challenges, best practices, and lessons learned. This is all captured in a report for participating agencies, the FirstNet Authority, and AT&T to help with future communications planning during disasters.
Finally, the FirstNet Authority Emergency Management Guide is available to all agencies as a reference to the solutions available for FirstNet subscribers. This guide provides tips, tricks, and information on requesting deployables, using the Uplift Request Tool, and more. Check out FirstNet.gov/EMguide to download your copy.
We continue to see more intense and damaging hurricanes affecting our communities. Public safety agencies work tirelessly to prepare for these incidents while carrying out their everyday duties and responding to incidents and emergencies. That’s why we are dedicated to ensuring public safety’s network is available to all responders with tools and innovative solutions that can make planning, response, and recovery easier and more efficient.
Learn more about how the FirstNet Authority can help prepare for, respond to, and recover from hurricanes with FirstNet at FirstNet.gov. You can also connect with the public safety advisor in your area at FirstNet.gov/advisor.
Bureaus and Offices
First Responder Network Authority
NIST, NSF Award More Than $7.6 Million to Support Disaster Resilience Research
May 4, 2022
Wed, 05/04/2022 - 11:02
Weather and satellites
The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) have awarded more than $7.6 million in grants to fund research that will improve the ability of buildings, infrastructure and communities to hold strong against natural hazards. The agencies are funding 20 projects to be conducted across 24 institutions through the Disaster Resilience Research Grant (DRRG) program, which they manage together.
“Each year, U.S. communities are increasingly impacted by disastrous natural hazards, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires,” said Joannie Chin, NIST’s Engineering Laboratory director. “While we can’t eliminate these tragic events, we can help communities reduce their vulnerabilities and increase their resilience with science-based resources. These awards will support efforts to unlock fundamental scientific and engineering insights that will enhance building designs, codes and standards.”
To identify the grant recipients, panels of reviewers with expertise in wildland-urban interface (WUI) fires, earthquakes, windstorms or community resilience assessed 260 applications. Of the 20 selected research projects, the eight funded by NIST are:
Arizona State University ($400,000)
For a thorough assessment of practices that would allow infrastructure systems to continue operating at a lower capacity when struck by windstorms. The research project also aims to establish methods of simulating the long-term performance of infrastructure under either current or future climate conditions.
Worcester Polytechnic Institute ($399,999)
For an investigation into how small burning debris, called embers or firebrands, are generated and carried through the air. The analysis could provide fundamental insights into ember formation and transport, informing WUI community practices to mitigate the effects of wildfires.
The University of Miami ($399,801)
To illuminate the effects that simultaneous wind, waves and storm surges have on coastal structures. The results could transform building codes and standards, improving resilience among coastal communities.
The University of California San Diego ($399,204)
To evaluate how steel pipes used as structural components in marine infrastructure, called piles, behave during earthquakes. Through physical experiments and computer modeling, the researchers aim to produce findings that can strengthen appropriate standards and codes for critical port infrastructure in the U.S.
The University of Massachusetts Amherst ($390,009)
To reveal how concrete structural components fortified with fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP), a material often used to patch up damaged or aging concrete buildings, respond to earthquakes. The findings from the project could be used to improve FRP selection for buildings in need of structural reinforcement.
The University of Miami ($397,767)
For the evaluation of glass-fiber-polymer-reinforced, ultra-high-performance concrete as a sea wall material alternative to conventional steel-reinforced concrete, which can be vulnerable to both abrasion and corrosion from prolonged exposure to salt water and waves. The researchers intend to measure and compare how each material behaves while being impacted by small-scale, simulated waves.
The University of Maryland, the University of California Berkeley and the University of California Davis ($390,000)
To study how people in the wildland-urban interface, or WUI — where communities closely interact with the wilderness — evacuate from fast-moving wildfires with little or no advanced notice. The researchers seek to develop a highly sophisticated evacuation computer model that could support planning for and action during wildfire evacuations.
Columbia University ($389,146)
For the development of a large database of simulated hurricane winds over a variety of coastal terrains, which may improve how buildings are designed to resist hurricane-force winds.
The 12 projects funded by NSF are:
Central Michigan University and the University of California Davis ($400,000)
For the development of realistic seismic motions as inputs to improve modeling and simulation of the effects of earthquakes on structures, which would enhance the seismic resilience of building and infrastructure designs.
Rutgers University New Brunswick ($400,000)
For the development of a modeling system that simulates the financial and behavioral impacts of coastal storms and flood on municipalities. The tool’s purpose will be to support stakeholder deliberation and help local decision-makers mitigate fiscal stresses.
Clemson University ($399,999)
For the creation of a modeling and analysis framework that can be used to evaluate housing designs and logistics planning for post-hurricane housing solutions. The framework will incorporate housing resilience, supply chain and adaptive logistics operations.
Carnegie Mellon University ($399,997)
To explore the extent to which decentralized power infrastructure in the form of modular microgrids could mitigate power loss during disaster response and humanitarian relief efforts.
Northeastern University ($399,504)
For the development of an accessible, artificial-intelligence-powered computer model that can be used to assess the earthquake resilience of urban buildings at a large scale. With this model, the researchers aim to aid disaster planning and decision-making as well as future building design.
Auburn University ($399,235)
To improve our understanding of near-ground-level winds and debris in extreme windstorms using new computer vision techniques. The results of this work could address a long-standing gap in our characterization of windstorms and inform building codes and standards.
The University of Nebraska Lincoln, Texas A&M University and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service ($398,887)
To gain a fundamental understanding of how resilient rural areas are to severe windstorms. Based on their findings, the researchers will identify, evaluate and recommend actions to enhance the resilience of these communities.
The University of Texas Arlington ($396,200)
To examine how crowdsourced datasets could be used by diverse coastal communities to characterize factors influencing their resilience to flood disasters at a fine scale.
San Jose State University ($393,086)
To produce remote sensing tools to measure wildfire behavior in the field. The new information gained with these tools could fill a critical gap in our understanding of wildfires and benefit future fire behavior studies and fire model development.
Stanford University ($309,441)
To develop high-resolution computational simulation tools to model how housing, infrastructure, and businesses recover from earthquakes given a region's available resources and socioeconomic factors. These tools could be used to assess the efficacy of disaster preparedness efforts.
The University of Michigan Ann Arbor ($282,720)
For the production of a novel modeling approach that could be used to determine the likelihood of flood hazard in urban areas not adjacent to rivers.
Bureaus and Offices
National Institute of Standards and Technology
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