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First responders face many challenges in their line of work, and the quicker they need to get the job done the higher the risks they face. When firefighters and rescuers approach a burning building, among the first questions they ask is what is the layout of the building, where are the people in need of assistance located, what are the most pressing dangers, and what are the quickest and safest routes of egress.

Until now, answering these questions required guesswork, trial and error, and sheer luck. But future forces of first responders will have tools that will help them perform their duties quicker, safer, and more effectively.

One of the companies working in this field is NuSpatial. This Alabama-based startup has come up with a solution that can astoundingly quickly map the rooms inside a building. The company says their device can collect measurement data as quickly as you can walk through an interior space.

This speed doesn’t harm measurement accuracy, either.

“We can get a lot of really detailed information. We can distinguish faces. We can see letters in the wall,” NuSpatial’s Tim Coddington said in a recent interview.

The company’s technology was initially designed with other purposes in mind. They’ve intended it to map buildings with no extant plans, update building information models (BIM), and other commercial and industrial applications. But the technology could certainly serve in the line of duty, too.

At this stage the device would be too big and cumbersome to use in dangerous settings, but if NuSpatial successfully miniaturises and hardens it, it could be a real boon for future first responder forces.