A Toronto provider of fleet-tracking technology promises to digitize the life-saving activities of emergency medical response teams.

Grey Island Systems Inc., which offers an Internet-based tracking system with global-positioning

and wireless capability, recently announced six new customers, including the St. John’s Health Care Corporation and Six Nations EMS and Ontario counties Haliburton, Lanark, Norfolk and Northumberland.

The new contracts come after Grey Island announced eight EMS contracts last January, making it “”the largest provider of automated vehicle location and telematics”” for Canada’s EMS community, according to Andrew Moore, the company’s chief executive.

The Ottawa Paramedic Service, one of Grey Island’s existing customers, said the system can potentially cut down on the response times of ambulances – something that’s frequently put under the microscope by the public and health officials alike.

The Internet-based system allows dispatchers to survey an electronic map, complete with the locations of all ambulances relative to an emergency caller. The system’s mobile device, which operates on a 12-volt battery, wirelessly sends global positioning data to a secure Web site.

Myles Cassidy, deputy chief of communications for the Ottawa Paramedic Service, said the system can cut down on “”wrong-turn syndrome”” since dispatchers can give real-time directions to ambulance drivers who may otherwise have trouble navigating through a subdivision.

The system can also play back the entire call in real-time, from start to finish, so the team can analyze its operations and adjust them accordingly, Cassidy added. Since the telematics system monitors the use of all of the vehicle’s electronic components, a playback includes such things as brake and siren use.

The historic playback option allows staff to evaluate whether the locations of each ambulance reap the best response times. And a big-picture look allows staff members to determine the best “”posts”” for each vehicle, said Cassidy.

Cassidy said the system won’t reduce the number of ambulances on the road. “”But are we doing things more efficiently? Yes.””

The system can also be accessed by the Ontario Ministry of Health, which has jurisdiction over EMS dispatchers, added Cassidy, suggesting that such information-sharing efforts can lead to improved service delivery across municipal jurisdictions.

If the Ottawa Paramedic Service had bought all the necessary software and hardware to run a similar service in-house, it would have paid four- to five-times more than the cost of Grey Island’s service charges, according to the organization’s own estimates.

This weekend, the OPS expects to trial a cell phone version of the device that can be used by its EMS bike team.

“”We’ve written an application for the cell phone which takes the GPS information and sends it to our servers,”” explains Moore. “”This gives paramedics on bikes the mobility without relying on a 12-volt battery, which would be cumbersome.””

Cassidy suspects coverage might be spotty in certain areas of the city. But, “”that’s what trials are for – to find this stuff out,”” he said.

Moore acknowledges that there are coverage limitations.

“”Our job is to identify what the client’s requirements are and if it’s a situation where there’s no coverage we’d move them onto a satellite transceiver,”” said Moore.

However, the satellite option isn’t currently available for a handheld device that supports the company’s tracking system, he said.

Grey Island’s other EMS customers range from MD Ambulance in Saskatoon to the Regina Health District to the Region of Waterloo EMS.

In 2002, the company launched a snowplough tracking effort with the City of Vaughan, just north of Toronto. The city equipped more than 80 snowploughs, window clearers, and sidewalk salters with radio receivers, allowing each vehicle to be tracked by GPS. The effort reportedly cut down on salting and clearing times. At the time, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation was considering the system for salt management on provincial highways, following in the footsteps of Vaughan, Calgary and St. John’s.

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