Feature Story

Fire service uses IoT tech to help extinguish carbon emissions

by Jason Deign

FDNY fire truck

The Internet of Things is helping New York’s Fire Department to cut greenhouse gasses.

One U.S. fire service isn’t just fighting local blazes but also helping reduce global warming with a tech-based system to cut greenhouse gases. 

The system, from Internet of Things (IoT) product maker Stealth Power, is being used with ambulances owned by New York City Fire Department (FDNY). 

FDNY, the largest and most busy fire service in the U.S., keeps more than 400 teams on standby in streets around the city. 

The on-standby teams are able to respond to calls at the drop of a hat, helping save lives that would be lost if the medics had to come from a central depot. But keeping engines running around the clock has a high cost. 

Each ambulance can spend up to 15 hours a day with its engine idling. And for each hour it idles, the engine burns up to 2.5 gallons of fuel, emits up to 40 pounds of CO2 and adds up to 50 miles of wear and tear. Stealth Power has a two-part way of cutting the cost. 

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The first step is to turn each motor into a diesel-electric hybrid. Stealth Power adds a battery that charges up when the team is on the move and powers vital systems when it is on standby. 

The second step is to install an IoT system that controls the hybrid power setup to get the best savings. The Stealth Power automatic idle reduction system (SPAIRS) uses Microsoft’s Azure, Windows 10 IoT Core and Power BI platforms. 

It can cut idling time by 10 hours a day, saving 15 gallons of fuel and 330 pounds of CO2. 

As of July 2019, FDNY had installed 300 SPAIRSs, cutting fuel use in its top-performing vehicles by up to 34 percent and potentially saving the fire service around $3 million a year, while axing as much as 20 million pounds of CO2. 

And Stealth Power’s sales director, Bill Needles, says the firm is putting new systems in all the time, “a couple a day now.” 

As well as adding systems for FDNY, Stealth Power has teamed up with Braun Ambulances to install SPAIRS on an ambulance for Duke University Hospital’s Duke Life Flight fleet. 

Hannu Jaaskelainen, senior technical specialist, fuels and engine technology, at emissions info service DieselNet, says SPAIRS follows a 20-year quest to cut idling pollution. This led to anti-idling engine controls being fitted to almost all U.S. trucking fleets by 2015. 

But in the case of FDNY, because there is a need for lots of power when the on standby, Jaaskelainen says: “Some of the other idle reduction technologies would not be an option. In this case, the battery system is the only viable alternative.”

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Needles says the market for idling-linked IoT is “incalculable. We’re just the tip of the iceberg.” 

Plus, the systems being used to cut idling greenhouse gases can be used elsewhere. Utility vans, radio masts, military trucks, and more all could have smaller carbon footprints by using systems such as SPAIRS. 

“Anyone who keeps engines idling just because they want to keep radios or warning lights on are all candidates,” says Needles. 

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