WiFi in the Ambulance

When I wrote about WiFi applications for government this month, I focused mostly on Corpus Christi, Texas, which has become something of a national laboratory ...
by | May 30, 2007
 

Ambulance_2_2 When I wrote about WiFi applications for government this month, I focused mostly on Corpus Christi, Texas, which has become something of a national laboratory for using the wireless Internet.

But an e-mail I received this week from Tucson reminded me that a lot of other cities are doing cool things with their large scale WiFi systems, too.

Francisco Leyva, a project manager with the city's DOT, wrote to say that Tucson is about to launch a medical application called ER-Link. The idea is to use WiFi on board ambulances so that emergency room doctors can see incoming patients before they roll in through the double doors. Corpus has been working on this idea for a while but the last time I checked in, they were having a tough time working out the details. Tucson, on the other hand, is taking this innovative idea live on July 1.

Here's how it works. Tucson's ambulances are being equipped with cameras, both inside and out. And the ER at the University Medical Center has been equipped with a couple of computer monitors. Let's say there's a car crash. Once the ambulance shows up on the scene, the ER docs can remotely control the on-board cameras to size up the situation.

For example, the ER docs can zoom in on the wreckage and see for themselves how serious the crash is. Then, once the victim is en route to the hospital, the ER docs can see the patient's vital signs and watch on as EMTs administer treatment inside the ambulance. The ER docs and the EMTs can even talk back and forth. The goal is to make for a smooth hand off between ambulance and hospital, eliminating duplicative tests or treatments and saving lives by not wasting minutes. A video demonstrating how the system works is here.

All of this is made possible by a WiFi system that is anchored into the city's traffic signals. Tucson got $2.9 million worth of state and federal grants, partly to implement ER-Link and partly to use WiFi-enabled cameras to do a better job of managing congestion at intersections. The resulting WiFi network is more robust along major arterials than it is deep into the neighborhoods--city-wide WiFi was never the goal. But Leyva says the network is robust enough to handle these applications, and can be bolstered later should other departments, such as the police, decide they, too, want to use WiFi.

What's your city doing with WiFi? Send an e-mail to 13thfloor@governing.com , or post a comment below.

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