Firefighters might not know what they’re up against when
they enter a burning building. But if they have a way to
assess the danger inside before going in, they’ll be better
equipped to avoid injuries and deaths.
Build an orb that can be tossed inside a building to gather
information and send it back to the firefighters—almost
like a satellite sending data back to NASA.
The 1.5-pound Fireball gathers data and uploads it
instantly via built-in Wi-Fi. Firefighters can pull up information on an app.
RESULTS OF TEST FIRE
The app connected to the Fireball tells important details
such as the levels of dust, which indicate the likelihood of
explosions, guiding firefighters to hold back or increase
airflow to the area. If the temperature monitor shows a
site that’s hot but has no flames, it could signal an immi-
nent explosion; firefighters may call for reinforcements,
get more hoses, and ventilate the area. Ammonia could
suggest the presence of hazardous materials, which
means firefighters should keep their masks on longer and
call for a special-response team.
1. Strengthen insulation
Once inside a fire, the Fireball’s clock is ticking: Its electronics need to gather and send data before they begin to melt
(which takes about 45 seconds in 500-degree heat). Right
now it works, but it’s not perfect. Intel may improve the ball’s
insulation to buy the tech more time.
2. Ensure an upright landing
When the Fireball lands in a building, its sensors need to
point upward, not toward the ground. To do that, the ball is
bottom-weighted and the sensor is on top—landing and
orienting like a Weeble. Intel must refine that mechanism to
work amid debris.
3. Fine-tune the sensors
If a sensor is wrong about, say, how much gasoline is in a
room, firefighters could be in trouble. Intel is conducting
extensive testing to make sure its data margin of error is as
small as possible.
The Fireball works well in a lab but now must undergo
rigorous real-world testing. (“You never know what you’ll
uncover in an actual fire,” says lead technologist Terry
O’Shea.) Intel hopes to have the Fireball market ready
within six months, at which point it will license the tech to
a company that targets firefighters.
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TEXT BY RACHEL Z. ARNDT;
ILLUSTRATION BY CHAD KOURI