Pilot scheme ignites Fire Service's interest in wireless

The New Zealand Fire Service is set to experiment with a wireless network linking its trucks, which will also employ GPS technology to keep track of the location of vehicles.

The New Zealand Fire Service is set to experiment with a wireless network linking its trucks, which will also employ GPS technology to keep track of the location of vehicles.

The project aims to provide firefighters with better information about buildings, such as particular risks and the surest and fastest route to a site.

The pilot will be developed by Wellington’s Provoke Solutions, as one of the five projects initially chosen for support by the Microsoft NZ Innovation Centre. Its selection means the entire cost of the project is paid by a Microsoft grant and the Fire Service gets to do the pilot risk-free, says Fire Service project manager Neil Upton.

The service has been experimenting with off-line notebooks in the vehicles, with a database of building information and locations burned on to CDs. This was first tried in Whangarei three years ago, and subsequently in Auckland and Wellington. But the Provoke project “is the next generation”, Upton says.

Provoke has found itself developing a specialisation in wireless and spatial-information projects, says managing director Mason Pratt. The Fire Service project will be the first to combine the two.

The fire trucks will carry ruggedised tablet PCs from Xplore Technologies, which will communicate using GPRS mobile links with a Fire Service central database. The core of the geographical information system will be MapInfo software.

Provoke expects to deliver a prototype by the end of September.

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