Technology made in space to save lives on Dublin streets

16 Jan 2009

Technology developed in Dublin and perfected in outer space by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) is to be used by Dublin Fire Brigade to combat accidents such as fires and road incidents.

Dublin-based software technology company Skytek has successfully adapted its space-developed iPV (International Procedural Viewer) technology for use by emergency personnel at Dublin Fire Brigade. 

iPV, which was developed to assist astronauts in controlling and managing emergency situations on-board the International Space Station, will now be used to help combat accidents such as fires and road incidents in Dublin.

“Safety and speed are crucial in dealing with any emergency situation,” said Richard Hedderman, Dublin Fire Brigade.

“By equipping our members with the latest technology, we can avoid time delays and ensure injured parties are getting the best possible care.

“We pre-plan emergency situations for dealing with major incidences in hospitals, hotels, Dublin Port Tunnel and other such locations.  This system means that our fire fighters have access to key plans on their way to incidents and at the scene of accidents.

“Since every situation is different — ranging from fires to chemical and biological hazards — it is important those dealing with the situation have the correct procedures and information to hand. By electronically capturing the details of each accident site, we will also have access to real-time updated data to help build a complete picture of emergencies as they happen.

“The equipment that is currently on trial in North Strand and Swords has been very positively received, Hedderman added.

Over the past year, Skytek has worked with Dublin Fire Brigade to adapt the technology known as APEX (Advanced Procedure Executor) to provide emergency personnel with immediate access to disaster procedures and plans via a mobile computer.

The mobile system will store key information such as hazardous chemical data, as well as emergency evacuation plans and procedures for key sites such as hospitals, factories and hotels. 

APEX will also provide key information on the potential hazards associated with vehicles. Due to the presence of explosives in airbags, high-voltage batteries and other new hybrid car technologies, the removal of an injured person can be extremely hazardous to both emergency crews and victims and needs to be undertaken in a controlled manner. Knowing just where a vehicle can or cannot be cut apart is vital.

Emergency crews can now access and review key data on vehicle layouts, location of the nearest fire hydrants and floor plans etc, all while on route to the scene of an accident or fire.

Spacee - the final frontier


Commenting on the trial Dr Sarah Bourke, Skytek said: “As with many innovations, this technology was originally developed for space missions where there is a need for controls, methodologies and procedures that are safe, accurate and secure.

“It shows how an Irish company can successfully undertake innovation at the highest level and then successful commercialise it in the international marketplace.”

The project was partly funded by Enterprise Ireland and ESA under its technology transfer to industry programme.

“This is an excellent example of how space technology can benefit society,” said Dr David Raitt, of the ESA.

“This technology has been rigorously tested under extreme situations for reliability. By harnessing these developments, huge leaps can be achieved in efficiency, safety and in saving lives.”

By John Kennedy


Caption: Award-winning Skytek space technology to be used by Dublin Fire Brigade. Dublin-based Skytek develops a mobile emergency system in association with Dublin Fire Brigade. iPV was developed to assist astronauts control and manage emergency situations on-board the International Space Station. Over the past year, Skytek has worked with Dublin Fire Brigade to adapt the technology for use by emergency personnel. Photo taken by: Shane O’Neill/Fennells.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years