Whose driving would not improve with eyes in the back of their head? Now imagine having three additional sets of eyes -- one set in the back and a set for each side. Intec Video has the technology to provide extra eyes to anyone responsible for gingerly backing 30 tons of fire truck into the tight confines of a burning plant or refinery.
Intec's Car Vision system supplements the spotter (who may be needed elsewhere) with rear and side mounted cameras that help eliminate the blind spots behind the vehicle, said Dino Nama, Intec's vice president for technical services.
"A camera is installed on the rear of the vehicle, and provides a very wide angle field of view for the operator. To view, he has a high resolution LCD monitor in the cab," Nama said.
As with other vehicles, the idea of installing cameras on fire trucks is to give the driver a better view for safe backing and maneuvering. Emergency response vehicles make up about 10 percent of Intec's customer base, Nama said.
Although most vehicles operate with a single rear mounted camera, more and more departments are opting for the added protection of side view cameras as well.
"We have installed front mounted cameras on tillers so that the driver in the back can see what is happening at the front," Nama said.
The Car Vision system combines as many as three cameras plugged into a single 6.4 inch color LCD. A switcher component can be tied directly to the vehicle's reverse gear to regulate what the driver sees on the monitor depending on direction of motion.
"We don't recommend splitting the screen because the images just get too small for the operator to see and make decisions with in a split-second time frame," Nama said. "With our system, the monitor can be on standby until the vehicle is put into reverse. Then the monitor turns on automatically, showing the driver what is directly behind the vehicle."
One technical innovation currently in the works is integrating radar into the Car Vision system, Nama said. If the radar detects an object too close to a stationary or moving vehicle, it automatically alerts the driver by activating the appropriate camera.
"It adds an active safety component to the camera system, warning the driver" Nama said. "The customer may have cameras on the side of their vehicles but unless the driver is looking at the view from that camera he won't know that something is there. When the radar activates the camera, it warns the driver immediately with visual and audible alerts."
The heavy-duty cameras come with a warranty of up to eight years. Multiple internal seals on the various connections eliminate moisture intrusion. The cameras even come with an optional chrome finish.
Learning to steer using a safety monitor, in conjunction with the mirrors and other standard backing procedures, does require a short learning curve, Nama said. That curve is lessened in departments who have experience with this technology. For example, the Philadelphia Fire Department has been a long time customer of Intec, who adapted closed circuit television to the emergency response vehicle market in the mid-1980s.
Multi-camera recording systems have also found their way onto ambulances, providing a rear view for the driver together with a second camera that monitors the inside of the ambulance at all times.
"It provides a record of the incident from the time that a victim is loaded into the vehicle to the time they get to the hospital," Nama said. "The driver, viewing a monitor, can know if they have a patient in the back that is getting out of hand, and has to be restrained."
If the patient later claims he was assaulted or victimized, the recorded video provides protection from liability.
"A number of people still use VHS system but even these are small, designed for mobile application," Nama said. "The digital recorders are even smaller since there is no tape drive mechanism."
Another adaptation of television technology to fire fighting is Intec's Video Sentinel, a modular scene surveillance system. Used primarily with command vehicles and aerial platforms, the Video Sentinel features a color zoom camera coupled with a thermal imaging camera that enables the incident commander to locate hot spots before they become dangerous.
"Both cameras are attached to a single pan and tilt mount," Nama said. "The camera sits atop a vertical or folding mast that can be elevated to as much as 60 feet high to give the firefighter a 360 degree panoramic view of the entire scene."
Video Sentinel is designed around the core technology of various thermal imaging manufacturers. The company purchases these thermal imaging cores based on performance and application, then combines them with germanium optics selected for field of view and function.
"We assemble the appropriate optics to the appropriate core and then all of that goes into an enclosure system that we have designed along with the accommodating electronics," Nama said. "Then the Video Sentinel can be placed on the vehicle camera mount. We manufacture the whole assembly, along with all the software and hardware that supports it."
Although the bulk of Intec Video sales involve vehicle safety camera systems for heavy equipment vehicles, purchases for emergency response vehicles is a growing segment of the market, Nama said.
"More and more applications of video cameras on emergency vehicles are emerging.," Nama said.
Visit the Intec Video at Booth #215-509 at the Industrial Fire World Emergency Responder Conference & Expo March 26-30, 2007, in Beaumont, TX.