Back on track

New technologies for location apps help track people where GPS can't. How do you track a firefighter who has rushed into a smoke-laden, flame-filled building; a police officer chasing a suspect inside a shopping mall; or someone working deep within a mine?


Digital radios equipped with GPS help when it's vital to know the whereabouts of units or people in the field. But GPS signals don't travel in indoor locations.

Today, the only way to track people indoors is via radio, when the person describes his location. But that can change with location apps that would make it possible to track people reliably in places where GPS signals can't.

Tracking position...

Airbus has already demonstrated the technology for such a location app — a unique combination of data sensing and real-time transfer over a TETRA network.

The demonstration involved innovative indoor positioning technology that uses an accelerometer and a gyroscope. These microelectromechanical system (MEMS) sensors can perceive dynamic acceleration, such as shock or vibration, as well as static acceleration, such as inclination or gravity.

In practice, the sensors measure the changes in a person's position. This stream of tracking data can be transferred via TETRA radio to a positioning application. The application — located at, say, a command centre — can then show the person's location on a digital map of the building.

... and watching health data

Similarly to tracking the person's position indoors, his/her vital life signs could also be tracked using the same concept. Being able to monitor people's health status — their pulse or oxygen level, for example — can help save lives.

Needs no advance set-up

Unlike traditional WiFi-based indoor positioning, the technology that Airbus demonstrated does not require an expensive and difficult set-up in advance.