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Cutting-Edge Technology aims to Save Firefighters Lives2018 November 15


Pathfinder, a search and rescue system for preventing firefighters becoming lost and disoriented in difficult conditions, was developed with researchers at the ADAPT Centre for Digital Content Technology.

Dublin, August 2018: The recent wildfires in Greece and California highlight the important role cutting-edge technology can play in disaster rescue efforts.  One such technology, developed in collaboration with researchers at the ADAPT Centre for Digital Content Technology and Martin Trainor, Assistant Chief Officer with the Cavan County Fire Service, aims to ensure first responders get back to safety in low-visibility environments.

Pathfinder is a small robot device that acts as a virtual electronic guide rope.  Entering smoke-filled buildings where visibility may be limited or near zero can result in firefighters becoming lost, disoriented, or separated from their crews.  Pathfinder allows firefighters navigate in smoky areas by building a map of the conditions and surroundings for search and rescue teams.  To do this, it uses a combination of sensors, thermocouples, and lasers to mark routes, send instant insights to the human emergency team outside, and quickly save people in distress.  

“The Pathfinder devices can be placed anywhere the search team deem strategic.  Each unit acts like a radio beacon, transmitting both a trail for firefighters to follow, a temperature reading, the location of firefighters within, and allowing a virtual map of the building to be constructed.  This helps rapid intervention should a firefighter get into difficulty and is a huge advancement in rescue technology,” said Martin Trainor who has patented the Pathfinder Search and Rescue Way-Finder System.

Speaking about the technology, Joris Vreeke from ADAPT’s Design and Innovation Lab said: “Sensors communicate with the Pathfinder devices to build a more complete picture of the environment in real-time.  The data they transmit is turned into intelligence that is actionable, helping alert firefighters of the exit path using an audible alarm and a bright flashing illuminated visual cue.  Specific voice messages are also incorporated into the unit to identify key insights such as a ‘landmark’, ‘door’, ‘searched area’, and ‘hazard’. We are also looking into having the hazard messages customised to local protocol and available in different languages.”

In 2017 there were 41 fatalities from fires attended by fire brigades in Ireland.  Pathfinder’s sensor technology can potentially find people faster in an emergency helping firefighters quickly search as much of the building as possible to locate anyone still inside helping to reduce the number of fatalities from fires in the future.  It is anticipated the Pathfinder Search and Rescue Way-Finder System will go into production in early 2019.



For media queries contact Olivia Waters, Marketing and Communications Manager at the ADAPT Centre for Digital Content Technology. Tel: 0879153599.  Email:

About ADAPT Centre for Digital Content Technology

ADAPT, the Centre for Digital Content Technology, provides a partnership between academia and industry in the field of digital content technology, leading on ground-breaking innovations in areas such as localization, social media analysis, multimodal interaction, intelligent content and media, and informal and formal learning.  Funded by Science Foundation Ireland, the centre is led out of Trinity College Dublin and combines the world-class expertise of researchers at Dublin City University, University College Dublin and Dublin Institute of Technology.

ADAPT has significant commercial expertise, having generated 7 spinout companies, multiple licenses and a large number of applied research collaborations.  ADAPT’s unique Design & Innovation Lab works with companies to bridge research and technology to enhance commercial success.  

Posted by:  Catherine O'Connor, Head of External Relations, School of Computer Science and Statistics, Trinity College Dublin

catherine.oconnor at