As a featured speaker on Thursday, April 11, 2019, at the Opening Ceremony Day 2 at FDIC International, Paul Doherty, president and CEO of The Digit Group, Inc., spoke on “Firefighting in the Age of Smart Cities.” He addressed the effects of Smart Cities on firefighting processes, education, and best practices by showcasing real-world implementations that focused on the safety and security of firefighters working in Smart Cities environments.
Doherty stated: “A Smart City is not a marketing campaign, a slick sales technique, or an amusing political catch phrase. It is a series of solutions to a serious and urgent situation the world faces today. Smart Cities are emerging as a civic action due to a ‘perfect storm’ of the convergence of market conditions, technology innovation, social wants, and government needs and the migration to urban environments that has accelerated on a global scale that dwarfs any previous mass movement of people in history.”
One the primary objectives of Smart Cities is to provide a safe, secure, and healthy urban environment, and Doherty sees the fire service as one of the breakthrough urban services that is disrupting its traditional past for an amazing future. The emergence of innovations that are being experimented with is providing conversations on how fire service professionals can change processes that increase the amount of proper information that can be quickly analyzed so a better-informed decision can be made–leading to protecting and saving more lives.
Doherty provided examples of why a Smart City is different from existing cities, citing the emergence of new clean energy systems like piezoelectric, a kinetic energy solution that generates power from compression, stores and harvests this power in a graphene battery, distributes this power through wireless charging, and captures and reports data of the exact location of the generated power dynamically. Treating it as only one of many innovations that Doherty calls “Ingredients,” he went onto show how other innovations like electric/autonomous vehicles that use the dynamic wireless charging instead of charging stations can result in a “recipe” that is in context and unique to that city. Fire service personnel will be challenged with understanding the interconnection of things in a Smart City, which will lead to new forms of fire protection and firefighting that should be thought about today to create a safe future.
Real-world examples of innovation in the fire service community begin with fire service people like Captain Kirk Mckenzie of the Consumes (CA) Fire Department, who is leading training and education technologies that are at the forefront of the global community; Battalion Chief Tom Calvert of the Menlo Park (CA) Fire District, who’s pioneering use of drones is the benchmark on the practical use of an emerging technology; and Paul Speight, watch manager for the Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service in the United Kingdom, who is leverging the use of virtual reality for better training.
Then there are service providers like Alex Harvey of RiVR, which provides Photorealistic Interactive Virtual Reality for education, training, and post mortem analysis; and Verizon, which recently began an incubator for companies in the fire service community that will leverge the new 5g wireless network being installed around the United States. This incubator is called Responder X Labs, whose initial projects include the following: Adcor Magnetic Systems is a company that creates sensors to detect, identify, track, and correlate on a digital 3D environment. Blueforce Development develops situational awareness and sensors to enhance field operations and communications. Kiana Analytics is a physical safety and security platform company for real-time location and situational awareness. Qwake Technologies develops augmented reality to help firefighters see in smoke-filled, zero-visibility hazardous environments. Aerial Applications is a company developing visual data for drones.
Doherty said, “By enabling technologies and innovations that will save firefighters’ lives, they will be able to save our lives. As a urban designer and architect, we consult with our local fire service community to learn how to design better buildings and better cities. When we partner with our fire service communities, a better understanding of how to deliver a safer environment becomes a reality for our real estate development firm. We feel this is good business, as selling a safe and secure environment is an added value for our customers–and it is also the right thing to do.”
Doherty concluded with the following, “You must be wondering why a real estate developer and architect is standing on the Main Stage as a featured speaker at FDIC. I am not a firefighter, who are our modern day heroes. I look up to each and every one of you as a model that I point to my eight-year-old boy and say, ‘Be like them.’ My grandfather and three of my uncles were both fire chiefs of the Carndonagh, Ireland, Fire Brigade and fire chiefs of Donegal County in Ireland. When I would visit them each summer as a boy, they would take me to the fire station to show off their ‘American Nephew/Grandson.’ The warmth and genuine nature of the fire service personnel that would show me apparatus, equipment, and uniforms are some things that I will always remember and never forget. Being a native of New York City, the loss of life during September 11 resounded in me to my core, which further pushed me to learn more about the fire service and gave me the courage to lead our real estate developments with firefighting as a central element of our offerings. Chief Bobby Halton heard this story, saw what we were trying to accomplish at a grand scale, and invited me to speak with you this morning. The fire service community should be very grateful to have such a wonderful leader as Bobby Halton, who is constantly seeking the trends, best practices, and communicating how work is getting done–and changing for the better. Thank you, Bobby, for allowing me to share our small part of the world with this talented community. You are my heroes.”