Google Glass to get a workout from Dutch firefighters

Google Glass could be useful for tasks like cutting up a car to free a trapped person, the fire department said

Amsterdam-Amstelland Fire Commander Elie van Strien wearing Google Glass

Amsterdam-Amstelland Fire Commander Elie van Strien wearing Google Glass

Can Google Glass help first responders work more effectively? Firefighters in Amsterdam want to find out, and plan to try out the wearable-of-the-moment in training scenarios and at accident scenes.

Google's gadget has enormous potential to enhance the performance of firefighters, the Amsterdam fire brigade said Thursday. It is working with IT company Incentro to develop software for Glass.

Initially, the brigade will use Glass to stream real-time video of accidents, via Google Hangouts, to students who can watch what the firefighters are doing, or to let remote officers tune in to see what's happening, according to Kees van Bemmel, manager at Incentro. The company has lent the fire department just one Glass device, however, so the experimentation will be somewhat limited in scope.

Glass can also be used to access data hands-free at an accident scene, so that information from the fire department's crash recovery system could for example be shown in the heads-up display, said Van Bemmel. That database contains information about how to cut open different models of cars when somebody is trapped after an accident, so firefighters can stay clear of airbags or other hazards.

Currently, the fire department accesses this information via tablets, said a fire department spokesman. Incentro will probably start next week on a concept for how to link the database to Glass.

Other potential uses for Glass might be checking the levels in an oxygen tank, or quickly taking a picture of a license plate to be uploaded to a database to check vehicle-specific information such as the fuel used by a crashed car, Incentro and the fire brigade showed in a video.

The experimentation remains pretty speculative. There no plans yet to invest in more Glasses even if the outcomes are positive: the devices are hard to come by in the Netherlands. Google Glass is currently only available in the U.S. on a limited basis. Even though Incentro is a Google partner, the company has not provided it with any of the devices. Eventually Incentro managed to get an invitation to buy one and used a U.S. shipping address from which it was sent on to the Netherlands, Van Bemmel said.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to

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