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GPS and AI collaborate on lifesaving emergency service solutions

July 23, 2023  - By
Image: Kara Capaldo/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Image: Kara Capaldo/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Whether preparing for natural disasters or responding to everyday emergencies, first responders depend on the accuracy and dependability of GPS data to keep our communities safe. However, the increasing number and intensity of natural disasters, such as wildfires and hurricanes, and ongoing first responder staffing shortages have pushed the industry to look for ways to combine the tried-and-true benefits of GPS with new artificial intelligence (AI) technology to alert sooner, respond faster, and restore better than ever. The integration of AI’s adaptive learning capabilities with the ability of GPS to operate in areas of low or no connectivity make for cutting-edge emergency service solutions.

New technologies incorporating both AI and GPS have already proven to save time and protect lives by quickly identifying and assessing potential fires. For example, in 2022, Sonoma County, California, used FireScout — an AI-powered fire detection solution — to monitor live footage for signs of fire and alert authorities. In one instance, the county found that FireScout’s AI solution detected and located — using GPS data — a fire 10 minutes before the 911 service was alerted about it, giving responders a head start on containing the fire. FireScout looks to integrate GPS functions more fully into their AI-enabled cameras with exact coordinate information. Investments in innovations that facilitate rapid response to natural disasters will lead to greater safety for first responders and their communities across the country.

One way the industry is investing in GPS-powered AI innovation is through problem-solving competitions such as XPrize Wildfire, which encourages the development of cutting-edge solutions to wildfires. Teams will compete in one of two tracks: the Autonomous Wildfire Response track, which requires teams to combine AI and GPS data to differentiate between high-risk actual fires and decoy fires and then quickly suppress the real fires, and the Space-Based Wildfire Detection and Intelligence track, which requires teams to use satellites to accurately pinpoint fires across vast areas then relay that information to stations on the ground. GPS industry leader Lockheed Martin is providing a $1 million Accurate Detection Intelligence Bonus Prize to the winner of the XPrize Wildfire competition. Competitions such as XPrize Wildfire will result in products that can identify fires faster, reducing response times and minimizing damages to communities.

Additionally, new GPS-powered AI solutions are bringing emergency resources to more people in the wake of hurricanes. In the aftermath of hurricanes, emergency personnel are tasked with identifying and allocating resources to restoration efforts. GPS-powered AI technologies such as the University of Connecticut’s hurricane monitoring system, compare pre-storm and post-storm satellite imagery to spot potential environmental and safety issues, such as flood water or damaged neighborhoods. The system then highlights those areas on a map and shares the coordinates of high-damage areas with emergency personnel. Services such as these support communities and allow restoration efforts to begin sooner with less risk to surveyors and responders.

Beyond natural disasters, GPS also is being used with AI technology to shorten response times for emergency vehicles. Many towns, including St. Louis, Michigan, and Leon Valley, Texas, have implemented AI traffic light systems that use location data to detect the location of ambulances and fire trucks to give the vehicles a path of green lights, clearing out any traffic that might have slowed response times. Similarly, researchers at the University of Southern California are using UAVs — guided and tracked using GPS data — to carry automated external defibrillators (AEDs) to remote locations. These UAVs use coordinates provided by GPS receivers to operate in areas of limited connectivity and AI to determine the most efficient landing locations for different terrains. Ongoing research and further investment into the critical intersections of GPS and AI technology will help promote a safer future by supporting first responders and protecting communities in emergencies.

The GPS Innovation Alliance (GPSIA) welcomes innovations in GPS and AI technologies that continue to revolutionize the way we respond to natural disasters and life-threatening emergencies. GPSIA is proud to support the expansion of these disaster-mitigating solutions by uplifting innovative research and design efforts, promoting new ideas, and ensuring adequate regulation is in place to protect users across the globe.

About the Author: Lisa Dyer

Lisa Dyer is the executive director of the GPS Innovation Alliance.