WIT researchers to lead €15.8m EU SOCIETIES project

27 Aug 2010

Researchers at Waterford Institute of Technology’s Telecommunications Software and Systems Group (TSSG) have been awarded the leadership of SOCIETIES – a €15.8m EU project aiming to revolutionise how businesses work and how emergency services respond in the face of disaster.

The project will begin in October 2010 and will run for three and a half years. The funding will also TSSG to collaborate with and draw expertise from Intel, IBM, LAKE Communications, Telecom Italia and Portugal Telecom Inovacao.

“Essentially, what we are looking at is ways to combine social networking concepts with ‘pervasive technology,’” said Kevin Doolin, head of Pervasive Communications Services at TSSG.

“People interact with computers in a multitude of ways on a daily basis without even realising it. Wireless technology brought computing from desktops to all aspects of life through smartphones, laptops, wearable computers and sensors.  

“Pervasive devices can be put in almost any type of object from cars and appliances to clothing. This technology is effortless, unobtrusive, intuitive, portable and always available.  

“It has also become ‘smart’; for example if you are in a “smart office” and want to print from your mobile device, it will automatically locate and connect to the nearest printer,” said Doolin.

Doolin also noted that wireless technology could allow online services and information to be accessed and syncronised remotely. Potential ideas in this area included electronic tags for toll booths, cars which adjust settings based on a driver’s key, traffic lights that monitor and respond to flows and phones that provide information based on a user’s location.

Community Smart Spaces

SOCIETIES is focusing on applying pervasive systems to communities and multiple users, as opposed to individuals.

They wish to build this technology to create integrated Community Smart Spaces (CSS), where people from different groups can access a range of data.

They also believe it could benefit emergency services in disaster management.

“The flooding and prolonged snow falls of winter 2009/10 demonstrated how Ireland could benefit from improved civil responses,” said Doolin.

“Other major natural disasters such as the tsunami in Asia, Hurricane Katrina or the earthquake in Haiti resulted in massive damage to roads, airports, railroads, hospitals, fire and police protection, water and other necessities.  

“In the aftermath, the biggest issue was the speed of rescue and relief operations.  This highlights the problems responders and victims faced in accessing vital resources such as emergency communications, essential supplies and equipment.

“Part of the SOCIETIES project involves working with civil protection experts across the EU to ensure that all trials are realistic,” he said.

Doolin pointed out that the CSSs for individual response teams, such as field hospitals or search and rescue teams, will update information automatically to priority due to analysing roles, duties, activities and locations of users.

“Using SOCIETIES technology, a CSS would establish a group to quickly share critical information such as danger spots, photographs, trapped victims and so on.

“Depending on how the situation escalates, higher level groups could join the CSS (ie regional or national authorities, the army or reserve staff) to monitor the situation and take control at a regional or national level,” he said.