Mike Ralston

CEO, Founder

Qwake Technologies

According to the National Fire Protection Association, oneU.S. civilian dies a fire-related death every 142 minutes.Mike Ralston is working to alleviate that tragedy. The engineerand former firefighter co-founded Qwake Technologiesto help firefighters navigate smoke-filled scenes.“Typically, a firefighter will be walking or crawling, with one hand onthe wall, feeling their way blindly,” says Ralston, who spent his 14-yearfirefighting career in Santa Clara County and Menlo Park. “If you comeinto a room that’s 10 feet by 20 feet and there’s a victim in the middle ofthe 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 obstaclesnot otherwise visible in fire scenes. C-THRU also streams the imagesto an incident-command tablet for better communication and situationalawareness. The device, which should be available this year, also shortensthe time firefighters spend in toxic environments and speeds locating afire’s source, reducing financial losses to a structure.Ralston has long advocated for technology to fight fires—he previouslyled the technology and innovation group within the Menlo Park Fire ProtectionDistrict—but for Qwake to succeed, he says, technology needs to bebuilt into the public safety ecosystem.So far, he says, “It hasn’t been economically viable for companies to goout and produce this [kind of] technology. We came at it from a differentpoint of view, ‘How can we make something with an economic incentive tobring to market?’ Saving lives while reducing property loss and healthexposure may be the answer.”