Sensprocloth - Positioning for Emergeny Forces


At a glance

© Kurt Fuchs

Application fire brigade

The purpose of the Sensprocloth collaborative project is to develop technologies that support command staff during firefighting operations and can trigger action to assist and rescue emergency responders and managers in distress. Project partners have developed a range of systems that make it possible to monitor responders' physiological status while taking account of their surroundings, thus creating a basis for timely support and immediate rescue efforts. Fraunhofer IIS's involvement in the project centers around responder tracking and communication. These capabilities are being achieved through technologies such as angle-of-arrival measurement and inertial sensing. The overall system enables seamless indoor and outdoor tracking of emergency responders, ensuring that effective steps can be taken to help them.

Drawing on its long-standing experience in tracking and communications, Fraunhofer IIS is exploring new avenues to improve the safety of first responders. Project partners include clothing manufacturers, systems integrators and users such as fire departments and emergency managers. The project is sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.


There are more than one million active firefighters in Germany. Besides attending to fires and accidents, they also conduct disaster response operations jointly with police. Each year sees about 15,000 fire disasters worldwide, with more than 200 firefighters losing their lives in the ensuing fire and rescue operations. Orientation in smoke-filled or complex buildings is often difficult, which then makes it virtually impossible to locate emergency responders who are in urgent need of help. It is therefore imperative to better protect the life and health of firefighters and emergency managers in such situations.

Sensprocloth increases first responders' safety and speeds up communication between crews and command staff.

On another level, Sensprocloth means savings for providers of occupational accident, health and old-age insurance.


Sensprocloth for Positioning of Emergency Forces
© Fraunhofer IIS/Kurt Fuchs

Sensprocloth for Positioning of Emergency Forces

A combination of tracking technologies allows emergency services to reliably track responding personnel. BlackFIR 868 enables indoor and outdoor tracking of first responders based on angle measurements provided by two or more antennas placed in separate locations. The antennas can either be positioned around a building or remain on board emergency vehicles deployed to the scene. In the future, they will even be able to be integrated into fire apparatus. To be able to locate other objects, the antennas first determine their own position and orientation using Differential GPS.

Additional time-of-flight measurements make it possible to calculate the distances between responders, which not only greatly aids communication between and among crews but also ensures reliable tracking even in difficult conditions. Further, an RFID technology using passive tags that can be attached to exit signs or smoke detectors, for instance, enables automatic floor identification, which also helps locate emergency responders.

In parallel, an inertial navigation system uses accelerometers and gyrometers to track responders' movements, thus complementing the position data. At a later stage, it will be possible to minimize the effect of extraneous influences through the use of improved algorithms and a combination of frequencies. Also, the radio channel can be used for data communication between personnel inside and outside a building.

In a subsequent step, the collected data is further processed to display positions in real time.

Using a graphic information system such as the LOKii positioning platform, the calculated position can then be displayed in a 2D or 3D view. If a geocoded layout diagram has been stored as part of the pre-incident plan for a building, then the system will automatically display positions in that diagram.


Sensprocloth is primarily intended for emergency services, such as firefighters, police or disaster managers. In addition, the research undertaken in this connection has potential military applications.

By helping to quickly identify and avert life-threatening situations, Sensprocloth improves the safety of emergency responders. A considerably increased ability to assess responders' surroundings and hazard exposure means command staff are able to make decisions faster, e.g. to withdraw personnel.

In addition, the wireless data transmission system facilitates communication among emergency personnel operating in complex buildings with reduced radio coverage. If a firefighter or other responder is exposed to a life-threatening situation, it is essential to warn other personnel at the scene and to notify their incident commander. Most importantly, help needs to be directed straight to the responder in distress so that no time is lost searching for them.

After an operation has been concluded, the system also makes it possible to trace responders' paths and so to review and refine tactics.


Fraunhofer IIS has all the knowledge necessary to provide complete tailored system solutions for tracking and navigation. One area we specialize in is fast signal processing for real-time tracking.

Thanks to our extensive experience in antenna and transmission technology, we are able to objectively evaluate, discuss and elaborate your ideas and plans. Fraunhofer IIS will take you through the entire development process, which will culminate in the proven and lasting success of the strategic solution created. Our system is completely scalable, which means that it can be easily adapted according to intended use and client requirements.

An R&D or license agreement will allow you to utilize our expertise as well as hardware and software.