At the Tipping Point?

Chris Mc Loone

Chris Mc Loone

I was walking with two of my sons to their bus stop recently, and we were discussing how I’d be purchasing tickets for an upcoming Philadelphia Phillies game. The game was in just a few days, but as any Phillies fan these days knows, ticket availability was not going to be an issue.

I told them I’d be buying the tickets online when I got back to our house. For whatever reason as I said that, I thought about going to the ballpark as a kid. I told the boys about how we’d all end up at the ticket window, bags of chips and popcorn and a thermos of iced tea in hand because we NEVER bought food at the stadium. We’d stand there as my dad would get coupons from “Phillies Franks” out and tell the cashier where he wanted to sit, and in we’d go. I remarked how many would never think of doing it that way in this day and age. I said we didn’t even have a computer to do it with back in the day. My son said, “Now we use computers for everything.” This led to more reminiscing by me—much to their chagrin, I am sure—about how my dad told us his was one of the first families on his block to have a television, that when he was a kid they didn’t have televisions. And, it occurred to me I’m old enough to remember a time when not everyone had a computer. Commence feeling old.

So, there is a connection between this anecdote and the fire service—believe me. Our cover story this month is a wrap-up of what we saw at FDIC International 2018. And, for me, the pervasive theme was how technology is impacting the rigs and equipment we use every day as we travel to and operate at various incidents. In the wrap-up, you’ll get a taste of what our team was most impressed with at the show. It was different for everybody. But within that story and intertwined in the news and products sections this month, you’ll get a glimpse of the technology I’m talking about.

We’ve been talking about technology for many years when it comes to fire trucks and other equipment. The self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) we use is more sophisticated now than ever in how it can communicate to incident commanders our location and air consumption. We continue to hear about wearable technology that helps communicate physiological information from the wearer. And, of course, our fire trucks are more technologically advanced than they have ever been. But, this isn’t the type of technology I’m referring to. I’m talking about the higher-level technology introduced at the show and shortly thereafter. It is connecting vehicles and their components together in ways we haven’t seen and is taking telemetry to the next level. It is connecting emergency response vehicles to civilian cars and trucks to warn them of our approach via apps. It is allowing the rigs to communicate to fleet managers, dealerships, and the manufacturers themselves to keep trucks in service longer and is enabling predictive maintenance.

If it sounds like this is all happening quickly, it is. And, if we’re not at the tipping point for these systems to become pervasive, we are just about there. Now that the foundation is there for our vehicles to become “smart” vehicles communicating with the cloud, all that remains is for developers to add their own layers to it to customize it for the fire service. It’s already happening, and you can learn more about it this month.

I did mention a connection before between my earlier anecdote and the fire service. We are entering what I think is a pretty exciting time for technology implementation for the fire service. Our younger firefighters don’t remember a time when there were only SCBA for two firefighters on a rig—and that those two SCBA were in a box in a compartment to boot! We are approaching a time when we’ll be able to say we remember a time when error codes weren’t diagnosed on the fly by a connected vehicle because it sent the code to the dealer and manufacturer via the cloud. New firefighters soon won’t know of a time that component updates weren’t done over the air. Yep, time to commence feeling old again.

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