Life-saving smart shoes track firefighters

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

The high-tech shoe sole in development.

Standing in a room with black boiling smoke and blazing flames can really make it difficult for a firefighter to keep track of where they are in a burning building. Thanks to smart footwear developed by the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, these civil servants can work more efficiently.

The heel of the footwear contains advanced sensors such as accelerometers, which measure increases in the rate of speed, and gyroscopes, that measure position. When paired with a wireless device designed to hang from a firefighter’s shoulder, the command center can be informed of their precise location for emergency coordination.

Also, unlike typical GPS tracking systems, the smart shoe can withstand extremely high temperatures and work while the firefighter is more than 80 feet underground. “When the firefighters can work safer and more efficiently, they can also save more lives,” says Peter Händel, Professor of Signal Processing at KTH and one of the inventors who worked on the development of the sensor shoe.

The next step for the developers is to move the devices from the heel of the shoe into the sole. Not only will this make it extremely flexible, it can then possibly be used in ordinary shoes as well.

Image of shoe sole courtesy of KTH Royal Institute of Technology.