Street | Cover Story
For a half century, Smokey the Bear has told Americans that “only YOU can prevent forest fires,” but an implicit question remains — how would you prevent fires?
For computer science concentrator Charlie Jacobson ’16, the answer seemed simple — take firefighting to the 21st century with a mobile app.
Last summer, Jacobson and Eddie Zhou ’16 founded FireStop, a cloud-based platform that seeks to help firefighters integrate stored fire inspection data with real-time information so firefighters can take their information with them to the field. By combining static data, such as hydrant locations, maps and Google Street View images with notification systems and incoming data streams, FireStop offers a one-of-a-kind tool for firefighters, according to Jacobson.
“We aim to be a one-stop solution for firefighters,” Jacobson said.
Jacobson has been a volunteer firefighter since the age of 16, an experience which made him see a need for better ways in which firefighters can organize and make use of their information.
“We’re operating in an industry [that] is not as fast moving and not as tech-savvy,” Jacobson said. “We’re very excited to change the way the industry operates.”
Traditionally, fire departments buy into multi-year contracts with software corporations, Jacobson explained. Bringing a start-up mentality to the fold can help make the software more accessible, especially when contracts are substituted for free trials and subscription plans.
The pair presented FireStop at last year’s Princeton Pitch event, an annual elevator pitch competition organized by the Princeton Entrepreneurship Club. Though FireStop didn’t win the competition and receive a financial award, it was supported by the Keller Center’s eLab Start-up Accelerator Program last summer, according to a Princeton University article.
Since then, FireStop has been in private beta testing and has been piloted in several New Jersey fire departments. The company aims to launch its software publicly in two to three weeks, according to Jacobson.
Needless to say, starting a company is no easy task, especially during the school year.
“Internally, there’s only four of us,” Jacobson said, referring to the organization’s small size. “We drink a lot of caffeine … [we want] to keep the momentum going.”
The app’s website outlines some of its more technical features, such as its CAD integration, and the target goal of the app: to save firefighters 90 seconds in their initial response to a fire.
“Our firefighters put their lives on the line and work tirelessly each day to protect the communities they serve,” the website reads. “They shouldn’t have to spend countless hours making technology fit their needs; they deserve cutting-edge technology that works for them.”