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QR codes to save lives

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The TIDOP research group of the USAL develops a web platform to optimize rescue times in traffic accidents.

The TagForRescue prototype allows “to improve the assistance times of the emergency services in traffic accidents against the procedures used in the rescue of victims trapped in the vehicles involved,” says Diego González Aguilera, director of the recognized research group TIDOP assigned to the Higher Polytechnic School of Ávila of the University of Salamanca (USAL), before commenting that the 60 minutes following are “crucial” in terms of medical care to keep a person alive or minimize their injuries.

He proposes a system that reads QR codes with technical information related to the vehicle and health data of the occupants, being this last one “the most controversial”. It is confidential information, so they have created an open platform for the user to decide what information they want to make public in case of an accident. Another difficulty encountered by those responsible for reading the QR codes is to identify each of the injured correctly. The formula that these Spanish researchers have chosen is to collect the driver’s records and regular passengers. These codes are strategically placed, according to the guidelines of the experts in these tasks, so that at least one of them can be read   by a “specific encryption protocol” so that only these modules can be deciphered by the health services and rescue forces. When making the technological development, says González Aguilera, that they have taken as a guide the rescue sheets that have all the brands of cars of the different models they sell.

And, as González Aguilera emphasizes, the speed of the intervention and decision making are fundamental. In this regard, he points out that there are studies that show that a 10-minute reduction in medical response time can decrease the probability of death of a victim in a car accident by one third. Therefore, TagForRescue can be “vitally important.”

The tool was designed for the iPhone iOS operating system, but it can be “extrapolated” to any other language. It emerged, as he remembers, following the doctoral thesis of Alejandro Morales. It showed the increase in the presence of firefighters in traffic accidents, because new vehicles safeguard more lives than before by their own design and their active and passive safety means, but, at the same time, the deformity they acquire causes a bigger complexity for rescue.

For González Aguilera, the biggest innovation of the project is not in technology – “based on web technology that already exists”, he says – but in making rescue times “more efficient”. In addition, the system makes the intervention “not so tight, with steps so close that require its time.”

Right now it is only a prototype, however, they are in conversations with potential clients so that it can materialize. The “ideal” business model would be through insurers and car dealers who want to incorporate this “quality seal” into their services. The point is that, as he acknowledges, it is not as simple as it seems.

In the first place, the professor of the USAL says that even having interested companies, the General Directorate of Traffic (DGT) would have to be part of the initiative. In this way, all rescue teams could be provided with the necessary  technological means. Keep in mind that any municipality with more than 20,000 inhabitants has a fire station. “It would not be expensive, since with a tablet or mobile phone it could be solved,” he says.

The director of the recognized and consolidated research group TIDOP of the University of Salamanca says that “it is not anything new”. Some high-end brands offer similar tools, but with nuances. However, the most important contribution, in his opinion, is the new characteristics of vehicles and new situations that can happen with hybrid cars, such as where the batteries are placed – “a very interesting fact to avoid electrocutions” -, the presence of new materials that do not allow cutting the different parts, whether it is diesel or gasoline… “With all that information firefighters know what car they are facing.” And it goes further: the operation can be prepared since they leave the station if the companions who are in the place of the events send them the QR code.

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Diego González Aguilera declares that TagForRescue can be extended to special vehicles, dangerous merchandise, trucks… where the rescue protocol is “complicated” and knowing this information would help “a lot,” he says.

The numbers confirm its usefulness. According to official data collected by the DGT in its balance sheet of 2017, the car fleet in Spain grew by more than one million units in the last ten years counting all categories of vehicles. Specifically, during the past year there was an increase of 780,423 units in the total compared to the previous year.

In addition, in 2017 the census of drivers maintained by the General Directorate of Traffic reached 26,649,453 drivers, a number that represents a percentage increase of 1% compared to 2016. Meanwhile, it is estimated that the Spanish public road network amounts to more than 660,000 kilometers.

During the past year, the majority of accidents involving victims took place on urban roads (63%), however, it is on interurban roads where the highest number of deaths is recorded (72%). With regard to the number of hospitalized injured, they are distributed in a similar proportion in interurban and urban roads.

González Aguilera also  ensures that research and innovation have “lights and shadows.” He acknowledges that there are initiatives that encourage entrepreneurship and the generation of technology companies and, therefore, the R & D fabric of Castilla y León, however, technology centers and universities are neglected.

For González Aguilera, society values talent and innovation, especially health-related projects, but for researchers to have “peace and quiet”, he says that administrations would have to develop plans “that do not look so much to the companies, but to the technological centers and the universities, since they are the ones in charge of the investigation in his first phases “. “Without them – he continues – it is very difficult to have a product.” For this reason, he suggests that it would be interesting to be able to finance somehow the projects that remain at the doorstep, because “all that effort would not be lost and we would generate less frustration within the technological centers and universities,” he points out.

New published on 09/20/2019