A wireless device being developed in Greensboro to track soldiers’ movement through dense jungles or rugged mountains passed its first major test last week and could go into production within two years.
The device, called TrakPoint, is about the size of a soda can and combines the electronic signals used in cell phones with the satellite technology used in GPS hardware. The device, the brainchild of Greensboro-based Mercury Data Systems Inc. and A3 IT Solutions LLC, could someday be carried by hundreds of thousands of soldiers and sailors.
“That’s just the tip of the iceberg,” said Brian Steckler, an information sciences professor at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif. He’s been working with the developers of TrakPoint and was involved in U.S. Navy field tests of the device in Thailand last week.
He’s already been contacted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Forest Service and other federal agencies that are interested in using TrakPoint for firefighters, police officers and thousands of other emergency workers.
Taylor and Guarino linked GPS satellite-signal capability with cellular radio technology to create TrakPoint, which includes gyroscopes to measure movement and semiconductors that can measure barometric pressure and altitude. Mercury Data and A3 IT also created the software to manage all these electronic signaling and measurement parts. The result is that TrakPoint can record the movements of a person wearing the device and electronically send messages to inform others of those movements.
The Department of Defense could still be a year away from placing its first order, and has not yet signed any contract. But if and when it does, Taylor and Guarino will have to decide where TrakPoint would be built.
Supplying U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers and Navy Seals with a few thousand of the TrakPoint devices within two years would be the initial phase. And the inventors hope that eventually they could supply the device to the more than a million firefighters, police officers, disaster relief workers and even building inspectors in the United States, who could use the software to map structures, he said. Supplying all those soldiers, firefighters and other workers would create a market worth more than $1 billion.