LA Daily News Reports: How NASA is using artificial intelligence to save lives of firefighters, first responders

NASA’s new artificial intelligence — capable of running on a cellphone — could soon put Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana to shame. The hope for the AI, named AUDREY, is to be deployed in the field to help save first responders’ lives by making split-second recommendations in dangerous situations, NASA officials said. AUDREY works by pulling in data from the environment and from the equipment being carried by first responders. In this way, the AI can detect temperature changes, gases and other threats. The cloud-based overseer will then on its own send custom warnings to individuals in the field.

In a fire, it might detect a propane tank through a camera carried by the firefighter, or warn of elevated temperatures in a nearby room.

“The information all becomes shareable and then the decision will be made by these kind of guardian angels for each of the firefighters,” said Edward Chow, manager of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Civil Program Office and AUDREY program manager.

AUDREY’s connectivity bridges the gaps in different communication networks, allowing the AI to spread information to different agencies at the same time. In one example provided by NASA, AUDREY predicted a possible explosion in a building. The AI automatically warns a police officer inside to evacuate, while also telling incoming firefighters or hazardous-material teams to address the threat quickly. At the same time, a message goes out to personnel outside to limit access to the building.

AUDREY stands for Assistant for Understanding Data through Reasoning, Extraction and sYnthesis. JPL partnered with the Department of Homeland Security to develop the AI.

DHS wants AUDREY to become another tool for what it calls the “Next Generation First Responder.”

Those firefighters, police officers and EMTs of the future will carry body-worn sensors, cameras and augmented glasses with heads-up displays. The data they collect could then be broadcast over a variety of networks. Such technology could allow a battalion chief to see where every firefighter is inside a building, track their vital signs and learn of potential environmental dangers.

AUDREY could even tap into the networks of home and business devices expected to become more prevalent in the next decade such as smart thermometers and fire alarms.

“The proliferation of miniaturized sensors and internet of things devices can make a tremendous impact on first responder safety, connectivity and situational awareness,” said John Merrill, Next Generation First Responder program manager for the DHS’ Science and Technology Directorate.

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