POINTER's Receiver and Transmitter
To help locate and track firefighters inside buildings, where other positioning technologies fail, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) are developing POINTER. Short for Precision Outdoor and Indoor Navigation and Tracking for Emergency Responders, the system began taking shape in 2014 and is being matured for use by fire departments nationwide.
The POINTER system is composed of three parts: a receiver, transmitter, and base station. The receiver (left) has been shrunk from the size of a backpack to the size of a large smartphone, and further development will miniaturize it so it can be easily clipped to a belt buckle. The transmitter (top right) is a system of coils that generate the magnetoquasistatic fields, which — unlike the radio waves used by GPS and radio-frequency identification — are able to pass through construction materials to interact with the receiver, enabling fire crews to track the location and orientation of firefighters. To test the system, transmitters have been attached to an out-of-service firetruck (lower right).
Through 2021, POINTER will undergo field tests and a commercial version of POINTER will be made available to fire departments in 2022.