No GPS Needed: New Boots Can Track Soldiers, Firefighters, and Miners

No GPS Needed: New Boots Can Track Soldiers, Firefighters, and Miners Remember Tom Sawyer and his sidekick Huckleberry Finn? In one story they enter a cave only to find that Indian Joe is there waiting for them. They get lost and can’t find their way out. Well, for some of us, getting lost is no longer much of an issue since GPS technology is usually accurate. However, when one does get lost without this handy modern convenience, one can still find themselves at odds with a hostile environment.

So, given this and the times that GPS technology fails us due to satellite signal limitations, it makes sense that someone out there discovered a means of tracking lost soldiers, miners, firefighters, children, and the elderly. For these type of individuals, there is a new type of technology that uses a system similar to radar to locate those who are underground or trapped inside of a cave or building.

The new system, dubbed MINT (Micro-Inertial Navigation Technology), is rather simple in concept and actually uses technology that is readily available today. MINT consists of a computer equipped with three unique sensors that are embedded inside the heel and soles of a pair of boots. The first of these sensors is located in the heel of the boot and is an inertial unit that measures the distance of each footstep that the person takes. One can then track the person’s footsteps from their direction of travel.

If the person is known to be within the perimeters of a building or cave with a specific layout, the person’s path can be tracked on a map, making it easier to find them. To accomplish its measurements, MINT technology uses some assumptions such as the fact that the average person will take approximately 3,600 steps in an hour. However, for a person such as a small woman or child who may have a different walking speed or step distance, the system can be re-programmed to take these measurements into account. Another advantage of the MINT technology is that it will also be of assistance to those tracking lost individuals who may find themselves in urban canyons where a GPS signal cannot reach or underwater where other technology cannot be used. It will even work in forests or other areas where tree canopies may completely block out a GPS signal.

Another interesting point is that this technology has already been embraced by fire departments around the US that are looking for ways to find trapped firefighters inside of burning buildings where quick location could mean the difference between life or death. This technology can also be implemented to assist firefighters who may be blinded by smoke by giving them the ability to retrace their footsteps and escape safely. This one application alone could prevent firefighter injury and/or death and makes this one aspect of the technology invaluable since our firefighters need the best and latest technology available.

Second, one must recognize that rarely a year goes by without some type of mining disaster occurring in some part of the world. In the past, we have watched as rescuers attempted to locate trapped miners. Unfortunately, after watching these dedicated individuals pound on rocks with a shovel, the result became the recovery of bodies rather than the rescue of the miners. With the implementation of the MINT boot technology, it is hoped that the lives of trapped miners could be saved since, once they are located, medical treatment could be provided in a more timely manner.

And we can’t deny our heartfelt connection to our soldiers and our concerns for their safety, especially if they are trapped behind enemy lines. In these cases, the possibility of using this technology to find them before they are tortured or killed is of monumental importance since it would give us a way to rescue them.

Last, there are numerous other applications that can be applied such as finding a child snatched by a predator or an elderly person who has wandered off and gotten lost due to Alzheimer’s Disease. No matter how you look at it, this technology is an advancement that can help to keep people safe and we should all be thankful for the insightful people who developed it. Of course, this is just my opinion and I would love to hear what you have to say about this new technology.

Is it too much like Big Brother?

Comments are welcome.

Source: Scientific American

Image: Courtesy Carnegie Mellon National Robotics Engineering Center