Abstract of the UVA presentation of the NSF-sponsored ALERT:
Unity in Bad Times: Bringing Together Heterogeneous Wireless Sensor Networks to Work for a Next-Generation Emergency Response System
On August 23, 2011 an earthquake struck the East Coast of the U.S., centered near Richmond, Virginia with a magnitude rating of 5.9. Tremors were felt all throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. On the previous day, Colorado was hit with a 5.3 magnitude earthquake, the state's biggest in decades. A series of minor earthquakes hit Northern and Southern California during the same period, but the biggest in this period was the one centered near Richmond. Though no injuries or damage was reported, several buildings were evacuated. Had the earthquake been a serious one, the injury, loss of life, and property damage associated with it would have been enormous similar to the tragic loss during and after the massive earthquake and tsunami that shook Japan in March 2011. Its impact became an international issue because it was the cause of release of radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. An initial review of the Japanese response in four critical areas suggests important lessons for the whole world when evaluating national and international capacity to deal with catastrophes. These four critical areas are preparedness and response, communicating risk, international assistance, and critical infrastructure.
The objective of our research is to design a real-time information system to improve emergency-response functions by bringing together information to respond to a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other small or large-scale emergency. We call this system ALERT: An Architecture for the Emergency Retasking of Wireless Sensor Networks. An example of such an emergency response function is a search-and-rescue operation performed by first responders. Typically, Wireless Sensor Networks (WSNs) composed by a large number of nodes, with processing, sensing and radio communication capabilities, scattered throughout a certain geographical region, have been applied to many real-world problems. Remote monitoring applications have sensed animal behavior and habitat, structural integrity of bridges, volcanic activity, and forest fire danger, to name only a few successes. These networks leveraged the relatively small form-factor of motes and their multi-hop wireless communication to provide dense sensing in difficult environments. In our system, the critical role of monitoring various parts of national infrastructure, from government buildings to power plants, to bridges, roads and tunnels is achieved through sensor network technology. The novel contribution of this research to the emergency response strategies is the seamless integration of various WSNs by retasking them with explicit missions involving a dynamically changing situation. This means that under normal conditions the sensor networks monitor the specific attributes for which they were deployed (e.g., air quality, temperature, pressure, noise levels). This is where heterogeneous sensor networks come into existence. The deployment of heterogeneous sensor networks in the real world is inevitable due to their specific objectives, and increase in reliability without significantly increasing the cost. However, should an emergency occur, the sensors in the affected area must be retasked and integrated into an emergency response system. Authorized personnel could task the sensor networks with explicit missions in support of mitigating the emergency at hand.
There are no widely accepted design principles for retasking independently-deployed sensor networks and for integrating their capabilities. Our work presents an important step towards adaptive and scalable computing architecture. Preliminary results have shown that retasking sensor networks for emergency response is a promising new paradigm that can not only promote a wider adoption of sensor network systems in support of guarding our national infrastructure and public safety, but can also provide invaluable help with disaster management and search-and-rescue operations. Our research will have a broad societal impact as sensor networks are expected to be integrated into the fabric of the society. Large geographical areas will be provided with integrated sensor networks that can provide invaluable help with disaster management. Our research can be readily extended in support of detecting trends and unanticipated events, the two key ingredients of an early-warning system.
Syed R Rizvi graduated with a Gold Medal from Birla Engineering College, India in 1996 with a BS in Electrical Engineering. After his undergraduate studies, Syed served on the faculty of three Engineering Universities in India for nearly four years. He joined ODU Computer Science Master's program in fall of 2000. It was the success of a final project in Mobile Computing course taught by Stephan Olariu in spring 2002 that sparked Syed's interest in the field of Wireless Communications and Mobile Computing. It eventually led to an internationally acclaimed Master's thesis on Multimedia LEO Satellite Networks. Since then Syed has published several book chapters, articles in archival journals and conference proceedings on a wide range of topics from embedded systems and vehicular ad-hoc networks to sensor networks and wireless multimedia. Since 2002, Syed has been working as a Research Scientist at Analytical Services & Materials, Inc., Hampton, where he is developing advanced technologies, primarily for NASA Langley Research Center. Syed is the author of the textbook Microcontroller Programming: An Introduction, published by CRC Press.
Syed is currently a PhD student in Computer Science, focusing on Emergency Re-tasking of Wireless Sensor Networks. He will be representing ODU at the 7th Annual Virginia Council of Graduate Schools' (VCGS) Graduate Student Research Forum to be held at the University of Virginia on February 16, 2012. His presentation is titled "Unity in Bad Times: Bringing Together Heterogeneous Wireless Sensor Networks to Work for a Next-generation Emergency Response System." The objective of the research is to design a real-time information system to improve emergency-response functions by bringing together information to respond to a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other small or large-scale emergency. The system is called ALERT: An Architecture for the Emergency Retasking of Wireless Sensor Networks. The novel contribution of this research to the emergency response strategies is the seamless integration of various wireless sensor networks by retasking them with explicit missions involving a dynamically changing situation.
ALERT is an NSF-funded research project under the supervision of Michele C. Weigle and Stephan Olariu. For more information, please visit: http://www.cs.odu.edu/~inets - Intelligent Networking and Systems (iNetS) Research Group in the Department of Computer Science at Old Dominion University.