Technologies from NYU Labs Will Assist FDNY In Command and Management of Major Incidents.

Researchers at New York University’s Center for Advanced Technology (CAT) have reached an agreement with the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) to develop a computerized command board for major fire operations. If successful, the new computerized system will replace the magnetic white boards and magic markers used by the department for decades in commanding major incidents.

The new system is based on technology developed by NYU computer scientists. There are two crucial elements in the new system.

The first is a program that allows large amounts of data to be displayed in innovative ways, permitting users to display large amounts of data and then zoom into items of specific interest (the program, “Zooming Spaces,” is patented by NYU). The second crucial element is a layering capability permitting different sets of maps - such as satellite photos, street maps, water supply lines, and subway lines - to be ‘layered’ one on top of another. [An example of the “zooming” program can be seen on the CAT’s website,].

In the aftermath of the tragic events of 9/11, NYU was designated as a recipient of federal funds to work on catastrophe preparedness and combating terrorism. With some $7 million in federal funds, the University established the Center for Catastrophe Preparedness and Response (CCPR) ( Scholars from throughout the University have identified technology, projects, and research that can help the U.S. respond to a major catastrophe or prevent a terrorist attack.

Computer scientists from the University first met with officials from the Fire Department to showcase the technology last summer. Since then, NYU researchers have been refining the technology, working on how to integrate real time wireless communications, investigating how to integrate tracking technology to show the position of individual firefighters, and how to incorporate such information on hazardous materials storage or other crucial information gleaned from the inspection of individual buildings.

Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta said, “Finding innovative ways to improve firefighting capabilities is a top priority for the Fire Department and we’re grateful to NYU for providing us with their cutting-edge technology and insight. Utilizing NYU’s software will help us develop a fire command board that has greater functionality, thus enhancing our management of operations at large-scale emergencies. The information captured from this new board - such as individual firefighter tracking and building floorplans - will increase our command and control capabilities and help ensure the safety of our members.

Prof. Mike Uretsky, co-director of the CAT, said, “It is an honor to work with Fire Safety Education Fund Inc., on this project. Heroism has a face in this city - we see it every time we look at one of our emergency service workers. The purpose of NYU’s Center for Advanced Technology is to move the discoveries and inventions of our researchers and scientists out of the university and into the real world. This is a perfect example of what NYSTAR intended in funding the Center. I know I speak for all of the researchers involved in saying that if this can help the FDNY in their ongoing mission to safeguard the lives and property of this city, we shall be very proud. I would like to thank everyone involved, and in particular, I would like to thank retired FDNY chiefs Vincent Dunn and Anthony Fusco, who gave us the benefit of their vast experience.”

Prof. Ken Perlin, the co-director of the CAT and the developer of the “Zooming Spaces” technology, said, “It is exciting to see technology from our Media Research Laboratory move out to a real world use that will save actual human lives. On a deep level, I think that’s what we hope for when we get that first glimmer of an idea in the Lab.”

The University has received a grant of $140,000 from the Fire Department Foundation, a not-for-profit foundation which supports Fire Department, to work on the development of the computerized command board and to act as consultants to the Department. In addition, the University and the FDNY are finalizing an agreement that will provide a license to the Fire Department to use the technology in developing new technology and systems for Fire Department vendors.

The University has also begun preliminary conversations with other city agencies on the application of the system to their operations, as well as other technologies.

For the past 10 years, researchers at NYU CAT Lab have been tackling the issue of how to seamlessly view complex data sets, such as multi-layer, large-scale images. The result is an application called Zooming Spaces. By splitting large images into a collection of equal-sized tiles, Zooming Spaces creates a natural zooming effect that makes viewing more manageable. In addition to multi-layered images, street to aerial views, for example, Zooming Spaces is a collaborative environment, giving multiple users the opportunity to edit and comment on the data via the Internet, all without clogging the network. Zooming Spaces technology also functions to similarly render any data, be it image, text or vector.

The NYU Center for Advanced Technology, which is supported by the New York State Office of Science, Technology and Academic Research (NYSTAR), is one of 15 such specialized centers across the state. Its mission is to act as a bridge to link computer and new media research and technology developed in University laboratories with the needs of industry and the public sector.

New York University, located in the heart of Greenwich Village, was established in 1831 and is one of America’s leading research universities. It is one of the largest private universities, and it has more international students than any other college or university in the U.S. Through its 14 schools and colleges, NYU conducts research and provides education in the arts and sciences, law, medicine, business, dentistry, education, nursing, the cinematic and dramatic arts, music, public administration, social work, and continuing and professional studies, among other areas.

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