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Martin Trainor, Pathfinder


Pathfinder is an innovative hardware and software technology solution to help save firefighters lives, while also reducing the time needed to rescue individuals trapped within burning structures.

Firefighters need to enter burning buildings to extinguish a fire and to rescue people who have become trapped. One of the major causes of firefighters’ deaths is becoming trapped, lost or disoriented within burning buildings. Despite industry efforts, a workable solution has yet to be developed. The International Forum to Advance First Responder Innovation (IFAFRI) identified this problem as their number one Global Capability Gap.

Many solutions have focused on locating base stations around the perimeter of the building. This is used to track a signal emanating from the lost firefighter within the building, an ‘outside-in’ approach. These solutions have inherent problems, particularly with loss of signal strength through concrete and steel structures. This is further compounded with elevation in height and below ground penetration. In addition, the set up time to initiate the system not only requires a level of technical ability but it also delays the firefighters’ mission.

Pathfinder overcomes these issues by deploying a breadcrumb concept based on an ‘inside out’ approach. On the way into the building firefighters will landmark their route using easily deployable wayfinders, effectively leaving a trail to follow on the way out.

The wayfinders create a localised ad hoc mesh network within the structure. The mesh network is then used to reliably track the progress of firefighters through personalised digital ID tags. It also provides enhanced situational awareness information on the internal environmental conditions to the Incident Commander (IC), located outside the building. The wayfinders allow the IC to monitor the temperature along the route to immediately identify any rapid rise in temperature, which could potentially trap the firefighters from getting back out.

Ultimately, Pathfinder reduces the rescue minutes needed to save people in distress while safely tracking firefighters within the building.

The Pathfinder project at DCU is funded by the Enterprise Ireland Commercialisation Fund and the team consists of Martin Trainor, who understood the problem and developed the product idea based on his own experience as a firefighter - and Principal Investigators Dr. Conor Brennan and Dr Derek Molloy, both from the School of Electronic Engineering in DCU.

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