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Morning Lineup – June 5

Wednesday Morning – Where Are We?

Over the past few years there have been several instances where firefighters have gotten into trouble inside fire buildings and Command doesn't know where they are.  This causes a sometimes-fatal delay by the RIT's who have difficulty finding them.  But something valuable in changing this kind of potential just might be on the way.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is the elite agency charged with developing new technologies for the military designed to keep our military capabilities ahead of our enemies' weapons.  Many of DARPA's inventions have become the backbone of the internet and other computer advances such as computer networking and the hypertext system.

Recently they have developed a "positioning tool" designed to be used whenever the GPS system goes down, such as when an enemy hacks into ane disables the satellite system.  WIRED magazine reported:

(In mid-April) researchers for Darpa announced they’d created a very small chip containing a timing and inertial measurement unit, or TIMU, that’s as thick as a couple of human hairs. When the satellites we rely on for navigation can’t be reached — whether they’ve been jammed or you’re in a densely packed city — the chip contains everything you’ll need to figure out how to get from place to place. It’s got gyroscopes, accelerometers and a master clock, to calculate orientation, acceleration and time.

The TIMU is fabricated from silicon dioxide and contained within a 10 cubic millimeter package — meaning it can just about fit within the Lincoln Memorial rendered on the back of a penny. All of this came out of a Darpa effort to compensate for the weaknesses of global satellite positioning through the possibilities of microtechnology.

The extremely small size of the device is emphasized
in this DARPA photo showing it placed on a penny.

"The resulting TIMU is small enough and should be robust enough for applications (when GPS is unavailable or limited for a short period of time) such as personnel tracking, handheld navigation, small diameter munitions and small airborne platforms," Darpa program manager Andrei Shkel said in the researchers’ announcement.

These are not meant to replace the GPS, but serve as a backup when the GPS is disabled.  The Defense Dept. already knows that North Korea has the capability to do this.  You can see from the photo that the device is extremely tiny and thus able to be placed safely in an item of personal gear or clothing (pocket pin?) for firefighters.  Just let your imagination roam around with this for a while and see what kinds of uses and values it would have for all emergency services.

We don't need it to find our way to the apparatus bay, though.  So let's get over there and start on today's equipment check.  I'll make sure there's more coffee coming before we meet back in the digital day room.  See you there.

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