Thursday, June 20, 2013

Using Google Glass in the Fire Service

WARNING:  This post deals with the technical implications of programming for Google Glass.  If you are not familar with APIs, cloud technology, etc.  you may want to leave.  You've been warned :)
Google Glass could be a useful tool for firefighters.  It can provide information in the form of text and pictures directly to the users field of vision.  This is a rapid means of getting small amounts of information such as dispatch details, location information, or hazard alerts.  I don't think Google Glass would be useful for interior firefighting(at least not in it's current form).  However for a incident commander, safety officer, or other exterior role it could prove useful.

I have yet to receive a pair of Google Glass, but hopefully I will soon with help from some contributions (hint , hint.  you can help by following this link).  I do however understand how to program for it and can't wait to do so once I get a pair.

Currently there is only one 'official' way to make apps for Google Glass:  the Mirror Api.  Essentially Google hosts each Google Glass user's 'timeline' on there server.  Cards can be inserted into the timeline using the mirror Api.  The said cards will then appear on the users Glass and can be viewed, dismissed, etc.  The mirror api is a RESTFUL api that is a standard in which modern web developers are very familiar.

My plan for using Glass in the fire service is to use Google's Appengine to host fire department's data in a cloud server.  The data will be hosted in the datastore.  When an incident is sent from the dispatch center the incident location and nature will be sent to the Google Glass.  Location information for the address will also be sent to Google glass and immediately available to view.

Location information could also be accessed by selected a 'show close by information'.  In this case I will be using appengine's Search Api to get the closest location information to the user and then sending the data to the Mirror Api.

Location information will be entered through an existing android application called FirefighterLog.  This app will be receiving an update soon that will allow entering location info.  Once information is entered into the app, it will be accessible by everyone in the department via Smartphone or Google Glass.  I will also be looking to importing existing data from fire software, such as the FireHouse software.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Google Glass in the Fire Service

Imagine being notified of a structure fire immediately on and being presented with the address and nature of the incident right in your vision.  Then imagine getting details of the incident location such as type of occupancy  floor plans, and any other available info all hands free.  Then your safety officer records and streams video of the fire as he arrives on scene providing evidence for investigators and an extra set of eyes to the incident commander.  This may be reality much sooner than you think.

Google Glass is here - at least to a few select "Glass Explorers".  For those not familiar with Google's latest mobile device Google Glass is a pair of glasses with a display in users field of vision.  There is also a camera and a "bone conduction transducer" that pumps sound directly into your head.  One can imagine the types of apps that could be beneficial - navigation, schematics for works displayed so they never have to move hands, music for musicians.  Glass will also be able to do Google+ hangouts which could be a killer app. Could this be then next big thing in mobile computing?  Only time will tell at this point, but it is definitely interesting and I can't wait to try this in some fire department use cases.

Google held a selection process ( #ifihadglass) to find first users of Google Glass.  Yours truly actually got picked!  At least 2 other firefighters have been selected as well(+Jeff Miller +Max Wood ). I have yet to get a pair(and may not at $1500!), but I am going to start working on a Glass application for the fire service.  Interested?  Join my Google+ community.  I'm looking for testers.

Glass is expected to be available to the public late this year and price is not known.  The explorer edition is going for $1500 however the final product is most likely going to be much less.  

Monday, May 7, 2012

Apparatus Tablet Mounts

Where are you going to put a tablet on a fire truck?  Firefighters are great at breaking things, so mounting the tablet is a good idea.  There are not a lot of choices at the time of this post, but here are a couple.  We will likely be testing one of these at my department soon.  If you have used one of these, or know of others, please comment below.

Ram Universal Tab lock holder for 10 tablets

This mount offers an adjustable mount to fit most android based 10" tablets including the Samsung Galaxy 10.1".  Also fits iPad 1,2, and the newest iPad.  The holder has a locking mechanism with key to keep the tablet secure.  I know most fire departments leave vehicles unlocked and unmanned, this is a big plus.  I could foresee tablets growing legs if they are not secured.  The holder can be mounted to the console, floor, or just about anywhere.  Unfortunately does More info is available at Ram Mount's site.

Update 04/17/13:  We went with this mount and have been using it for several months with a Galaxy Tab 10.1.  Overall the mount has done its job and held the tablet in place and protected it.  Installation is easy and can be adjusted to different angles.  This mount DOES NOT work well with the Galaxy tab 10.1 as is.  The mount is slightly larger than the tablet and the tablet will slide down and the power button will be pressed by the mount.  We worked around this by using a rubberized case on the tablet itself.  This works quite well together. If your using this without a case on the tablet you will need to do some rigging...

Ram X-GRIP Universal Clamping Cradle

This is another cradle from Ram Mount.  It is adjustable to fit most 10" tablets.  This does not offer locking.  The upside is the tablet can be quickly removed.  Also tablets with protective cases can fit inside this cradle, where as they may not in other cradles.  More info is available at Ram Mount's site.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Mobile Apps, the Cloud, and the Fire Service

Mobile devices and cloud computing have taken the world by storm and are revolutionizing business and industry.  The computing power of laptops of a few years ago can now be held in the palm of your hand.   Wireless internet connectivity, GPS, touch screen interfaces, and built in cameras, and a price tag of around $200 or less make these devices truly game changers.  In fact people are buying these devices faster than any other consumer electronic before.  At last count 700,000 android devices are activated everyday and nearly a total of 250 million android devices sold.  Mobile devices using Google's Android OS and Apple's iOS (and to a lesser extent MS phone) and cloud computing are truly changing the world.

How will this change the fire service and public safety sector?  A number of apps have been developed for android for use by firefighters and more are sure to come.  So far most have been fairly simple apps, however more sophisticated and complex apps are beginning to emerge making the mobile platform a valuable tool in the firefighter's toolbox.  A few of the apps currently available are: 
  • Cargo decoder - digital ERG book
  • FirefighterLog
  • CadPage
  • Hazmat evac - provides isolation zones based on ERG book
  • Radio Scanner - streaming audio from
  • WISER - hazardous materials lookup
  • Pulse Point -   alerts citizens of cardiac arrests
  • Fire Chief magazine
  • Fire Engineering magazine
  • Friction Loss calculators
  • Shift schedules
This blog will be reviewing apps as they come available.