Inside their boots, firefighters’ have advanced insoles with sensors that make it possible for emergency operations commanders to follow the firefighters’ exact movements. The system, which includes an accelerometer and gyroscope, plus a processor, can withstand shock and high temperatures, and remains operational where GPS positioning systems fail. In addition to saving lives in emergencies, it can also be used to help senior citizens maintain their mobility and independence.

The researchers will work with a group of senior citizens to test a new version of the system designed to collect additional data that produces a detailed picture of foot movements. These special insoles could be placed in ordinary shoes to gather data about a person’s steps. Doctors could see how forces are distributed in the foot, and detect problems such as early-stage Parkinson’s.