Grenfell tragedy inspires schoolboy's award-winning fire safety app

9 February 2018, 15:43

Writing line after line of computer code is not how many 14-year-olds would decide to spend their school holidays.

But Baran Korkmaz was determined to try to put his tech skills to good use, after being horrified by the deadly fire at Grenfell Tower last June.

The North London schoolboy has spent the past seven months designing a fire safety app for smartphones, which he calls IMAREC.

He hopes its various features could help familiarise people with the fire escape routes of large buildings and assist emergency services with evacuations.

"I was really shocked by what happened at Grenfell," Baran told Sky News.

"It was something that nobody expected.

And it made me think: how could technology be used to assist in situations like this?"

Despite only having designed games in the past, Baran used off-the-shelf programming software to design the application from scratch.

It uses augmented reality technology to superimpose a green 'escape route' line onto a video stream of the user's real world surroundings.

It can also point out the nearest safety equipment, such as fire extinguishers or alarm call points.

The prototype requires a building to be manually mapped but Baran hopes that in future a combination of GPS and Bluetooth beacons could be used instead - eliminating the need for this time-consuming process.

Other features in development include a 'rescue me' button which would pass the user's location within a building to the emergency services and able rescuers to view live-streamed video footage from the phone's camera.

IMAREC caught the eye of the judges at the recent British Invention Show, where it won two awards including International Invention of the Year.

Since then Baran has been getting mentoring and support from Pointr, a company that specialises in indoor navigation.

Pointr's co-founder, Axel Katalan, told Sky News: "I received an email one day, just as I was about to leave the office, and it captivated my attention.

"The first thing I read was Baran introducing himself as a 14-year-old student who had built this amazing technology that helps people in emergency situations.

"Not only that, but he had prepared a 10-page technical specification.

"I was blown away.

"Within 10 minutes we had replied inviting him to the office - and offering to help him in whatever way we could."

IMAREC is still in development, with new features being added all the time.

Axel Katalan added: "I have my reservations about whether, in the near future, this type of technology should be heavily relied upon in emergency situations, but it is definitely the right direction to go."

Baran is looking to partner with a major tech firm later this year and is hopeful his concept will one day become a reality.

"I hope people also see the vision I see in IMAREC," Baran added.

"The vision that technology and mobile devices could really be used to help people in emergency situations."

:: Watch the full report in this week's SWIPE