There are not yet any technologies capable of detecting in advance signs of an approaching natural disaster and providing people with reliable and adequate warning that can save human life. A new system being developed by Motorola Solutions, however, is designed to make coping with such crises and managing them substantially easier.
Development of the system began recently, after Motorola Solutions Israel won a €6 million European Union tender for rapid and precise management of natural disasters and extreme events, based on data from sensors and indices that, when processed and analyzed, can provide the relevant forces in the field with an up-to-date status report.
Research and academic institutions in European countries are also partners in the venture led by Motorola Solutions. The pilot will take place in three cities, each of which has a problem with natural disasters: Thessaloniki, Greece, which suffers from extreme heat waves; Venice, Italy, which experiences frequent flooding; and Valencia, Spain, where forest fires are a frequent occurrence.
Although the developers of the system would have loved to develop a means of warning long in advance of a deadly impending natural disaster, at this stage, they will settle for a system able to manage the large quantity of relevant data that will enable hospital managers, police commanders, fire departments, and other initial responding rescue forces to make correct decisions, and to rapidly take control of any catastrophe with a minimum number of casualties.
The system is being developed in the framework of a project called BeAware. It will be adapted to any scenario designed for it by the end user. The system is based on special physical sensors and databases of many authorities, including data from similar past extreme events; sensors adapted when necessary to testing the level of humidity in the air, the direction and strength of the wind, weather forecasting, and temperatures in real time; the sea level; traffic light control systems in the designated cities, etc. To these are added many other indices to be gathered by the system in real time: mobile phones of residents or visitors in each area will inform the system in real time how many people are in each area relevant to an analysis of an event, the state of occupancy in hotels or leisure centers, the number of students in schools at any given moment, the level of crowding in nearby hospitals and the state of the roads, so that rescue forces can select available access routes without getting stuck in endless traffic jams at a time when they are hurrying to extinguish fires or evacuating casualties for first aid treatment.
"Statistically, in every year for the past 30 years, tens of millions of people in the world have been affected by natural disasters of various types. It has been predicted that natural disasters will become more frequent in the coming years," Motorola Solutions Israel VP business development Boris Kantsepolsky told "Globes." "As of now, at least, the only possible way of handling such disasters is to find a better way of minimizing them, and we can do that using the existing available technological means developed over the past decade."
The world has already been in an environment of large quantities of dynamic data. Almost every broadcasting device user can constitute a sensor in himself for such a system. Usually, however, these data are not processed or analyzed to produce an integrated and indicative picture which, if it does not prevent the next natural disaster, will at least make it its management possible. "The challenge is sharing data and fusing information," Kantsepolsky says. "The system will operate all the time, collect data, analyze them, and make correlations between them and the relevant reference scenarios for any entity that operates it. In an exceptional event scenario, it will facilitate a smooth transition from a routine situation to an emergency, in which every party involved in managing the event receives information relevant to him via a comfortable interface on the computer, tablet, smartphone, or communications devices of the initial responders in the various theaters."
Concern about flooding in Venice does not mean much to the average Israeli, who has his own troubles involving terrorism and military conflicts in one of the world's craziest regions. For Motorola Solutions, the same thing that will improve the handling of the civilian population in the event of heat waves in Thessaloniki or widespread forest fires in Valencia can also be good for a small country surrounded by enemies, rockets, missiles, and nervous terrorists with machetes.
"In an extreme heat wave, electrical infrastructure and municipal traffic light systems collapse, creating traffic jams and a great deal of chaos, and under various scenarios, a missile barrage can produce the same results," Kantsepolsky explains, adding, "Such a system, which will help manage a large-scale natural disaster, can also help manage extreme home front events, such as war or a major terrorist attack. The role of such a system ostensibly sounds obvious at such a time, but no country in the world has a system that 'views everything from above' and helps handle crisis situations: the existing command and control systems in cities are oriented towards specific categories, such as smart city systems or systems for more effective handling of criminal events that are designed to reduce or prevent crimes."
Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on May 10, 2017
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