CEO, Founder | Qwake Technologies
According to the National Fire Protection Association, one
U.S. civilian dies a fire-related death every 142 minutes.
Mike Ralston is working to alleviate that tragedy. The engineer
and former firefighter co-founded Qwake Technologies
to help firefighters navigate smoke-filled scenes.
“Typically, a firefighter will be walking or crawling, with one hand on
the wall, feeling their way blindly,” says Ralston, who spent his 14-year
firefighting career in Santa Clara County and Menlo Park. “If you come
into a room that’s 10 feet by 20 feet and there’s a victim in the middle of
the room, it could take five minutes to locate the victim.”
Qwake’s C-THRU Visual Communication platform is a helmet-mounted,
augmented-reality device that delineates the contours of people and obstacles
not otherwise visible in fire scenes. C-THRU also streams the images
to an incident-command tablet for better communication and situational
awareness. The device, which should be available this year, also shortens
the time firefighters spend in toxic environments and speeds locating a
fire’s source, reducing financial losses to a structure.
Ralston has long advocated for technology to fight fires—he previously
led the technology and innovation group within the Menlo Park Fire Protection
District—but for Qwake to succeed, he says, technology needs to be
built into the public safety ecosystem.
So far, he says, “It hasn’t been economically viable for companies to go
out and produce this [kind of] technology. We came at it from a different
point of view, ‘How can we make something with an economic incentive to
bring to market?’ Saving lives while reducing property loss and health
exposure may be the answer.”