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Tech-enhanced Rescue Dogs Lend a Paw to Disaster Relief

(Photo: Alper Bozkurt, NC State University)

(Photo: Alper Bozkurt, NC State University)

Superdog to the rescue! It may sound like comic book fodder, but we’re about to see Krypto in real life, as our canine friends, outfitted in high-tech gear, prepare to join the front lines of disaster response.

Led by a team from North Carolina State University, the smart-response dog initiative is part of a larger effort to smarten up our currently outdated disaster relief infrastructure. The project, called the Smart Emergency Response System (SERS), aims to integrate cyber-physical technologies into emergency response by building a framework of aerial robots, advanced sensors, wireless communication tools, and tech-enhanced search and rescue dogs.

According to the initiative, the smart-response dogs will wear high-tech harnesses equipped with gadgets, enabling them to monitor the disaster area, track their behavior and wellbeing, and send and receive communications—all in real time. With the help of devices like cameras, microphones, and sensors, the dogs will be able to relay what they find to nearby handlers and command centers. Then, by way of speakers and cellphone vibrations, the handlers can use that real-time information to tell the dogs what to do.

SERS is part of the SmartAmerica Challenge, a White House Presidential Innovation Fellow project, set to conclude June 11 at the SmartAmerica Expo in Washington, D.C.

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