Intel yesterday showed off its prototype 'Fireball', which is designed to aid firefighters by monitoring the environment in burning buildings.

The Fireball is a sensor package and wireless transmitter enclosed in a ceramic heat shield and metal outer shell. Around the size of a tennis ball, though looking more like a hand grenade, the Fireball is intended to be thrown into burning buildings by first responders.

Sensors monitor information such as carbon monoxide, ammonia levels and temperature, relaying this wirelessly to firefighters' smartphones and back to the station: allowing an appropriate response to be coordinated and the risk of injury to first responders reduced. The ball will continue to transmit information until destroyed.

The product was on show at Intel's 'Day Zero' event prior to the company's 2011 Developer Forum in San Francisco. A number of Intel research projects were showcased under the banner of 'Disaster Management: Information Technology that Helps Save Lives'. Other technologies included mapping of traffic through in-car devices or overhead radar, prediction and measurement of weather conditions through massively distributed networks of sensors, and ruggedised, low-power Wi-Fi hotspots that can be set up in areas without internet service, or where internet service has been disrupted by a disaster.

NZ PC World's Harley Ogier is attending IDF as a guest of Intel.