Digitalization, Internet of Things, Industry 4.0, Smart Products, Big Data – the connectivity megatrend comprises many different slogans. In essence, however, they all pursue a similar goal, namely that of comprehensive networking based on modern internet and communication technologies. It is projected that by the year 2020 more than 50 billion networks of things and systems will exist. Connectivity is also one of the most extensive and significant megatrends, whose manifestations are also evident in all other megatrends, as can be seen in the interconnections of this trendline in the fire brigade trend map.
But what does this potentially mean for fire departments and other technical assistance organizations? In general, particularly volunteer organizations tend to be more old-fashioned and more likely to adhere to tried-and-tested, fail-safe ‘analog’ devices and methods, and they are often more skeptical about adapting new digital technologies. Even though this may be true to a certain extent, in the day-to-day operations of fire services, the networking of forces with one another, with equipment, and with vehicles, as well as the communication between vehicles and other equipment will continue to increase.
Already, for example, vehicle data and parameter values of firefighting vehicles can be automatically recorded, wirelessly transmitted, and evaluated in order to identify required repairs or faults arising at an early stage. With continual refinement of automated monitoring methods, such remote diagnostics will continue to be used in other equipment in order to ensure complete functional safety.
Digitization and networking also provide fire brigades with a variety of operational possibilities, such as workflows, deployment coordination, and monitoring of emergency crews, through, for example, indoor navigation, monitoring and transmission of vital signs, intelligent smoke detectors, augmented reality systems, and much more.
On the other hand, digitization and networking are also highly dependent on a power supply, since the modules, sensors, and transmission units have to be supplied with electricity. This means, of course, that the number of electronic or battery-powered devices also increases in private households, which inevitably increases the statistical risk of fire, due to malfunctions of charger devices, or defective sensors.
There is a great deal of potential, but, among all the prevailing excitement surrounding digitization, one must always bear in mind aspects of sensibility, practicality, and necessity. Adaptations and changes in the context of increased networking are ultimately intended to assist emergency crews and make their work easier. They should by no means overwhelm them or distract or hinder them from their primary activities, namely the saving of human life and the extinguishing of fires. It will be important to use those technologies that simplify the work and make the deployment safer in a simple and intuitive way.