ACRIMAS Pilot and first ECML workshop on Mobile Interoperability for International Field Deployment
The ACRIMAS Pilot workshop on Mobile Interoperability for International Field Deployment took place in the European Crisis Management Laboratory (ECML) of the Joint Research Centre in Ispra, Italy, from 12 to 13 March 2012. 37 participants coming from 11 EU countries and Norway, Brazil and US, 3 UN agencies (Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), World Food Programme (WFP) and Development Programme (UNDP)) and 2 NGOs (MapAction, Technology Sans Frontières) attended the workshop.
The workshop’s purpose was to measure the added value of mobile assessment technology for rapid situation assessment in international emergency operations. Seven mobile assessment systems were deployed among the participants and needed to provide, in an interoperable way, real-time data to a single OSOCC. The performance of the systems was benchmarked against a traditional paper-based assessment that was conducted simultaneously.
The workshop was co-organised with ACRIMAS, an FP7 project preparing a Demonstration Project in crisis management. This ACRIMAS Pilot Case demonstrated that controlled experiments are a useful way to assess and advance crisis management technology.
The outcomes of the workshop showed that both paper and electronic On-Site Operations Coordination Centres (OSOCCs) reached a similar situation awareness in the same time, identifying similar needs and locations for prioritization, but only the eOSOCC had products available as sharable electronic maps and documents.
The final map with all incoming feeds in the eOSOCC was very cluttered. The eOSOCC team leaders reported that there was considerable information overload. As much as 328 entities of information were simultaneously streamed to the eOSOCC. Therefore sophisticated editing, filtering, and visualization functionalities (e.g., multiple views) have to be available for OSOCC staff.
Status-Quo and Further Development Needs
Mobile technology is mature and can be deployed in an interoperable way. However, as soon as it comes to interoperable sharing, the information of each and every system leaves the proprietary applications for processing and analyzing the data. Therefore, processing tools and training to these are needed.
The main impression from the eOSOCC team was that there is a lot of potential. “It’s a dream to work with real-time data”, a representative of World Food Programme said, “but more tools are needed to exploit the information.” Having access in real-time to field information was felt to be extremely useful. Still missing at the moment are tools and procedures for exploiting this benefit. Most important are tools to curate, filter, manipulate, edit, and delete assessment information of all teams (i.e. post processing tools). A dedicated OSOCC software suite is needed that gives full control over the data to the eOSOCC staff. The participants encouraged a follow-up workshop after such tools are developed.
The following 7 systems participated in the experiment with active attendance of the respective technology providers.
Alice by Astri Polska Sp. z o.o., Warszawa, Poland
ALICE (Adaptive Layers for Information and Collaboration in Emergency) allows for rapid exchange of information between the various rescue units in the field and between field units and headquarter. ALICE provides a variety of information (GIS data, aerial and satellite images, units' localization, meteorological data, etc.) directly to the user in the field. ALICE was created with the strong support of Polish firemen and was designed according to the philosophy that to share an operational picture and to support decision making a shared geographic environment is crucial. [cf. http://www.astripolska.pl/0,1,93.html
ASIGN from GEO-PICTURES
GEO-PICTURES is a complete system for field data collection (ASIGN), satellite image ordering (MMO) and rapid mapping (UNOSAT) with an innovative online portal, and has been developed and tested extensively over more then 5 years with UN (UNOSAT) and EU Civil Protection (Johannitter and DMAT). ASIGN (Adaptive System Image-communications in Global Networks) is an innovative Image Communications Solution, providing optimal and rapid transfer of both low and high quality geo-tagged photos, videos and other sensory data. ASIGN specifically solves the practical challenges of communicating with low and unstable bandwidth from the field, and runs on any available network. Users have the most rapid transfer of field data while keeping access to full resolution images. Dynamic assessment templates are provided, that can be configured from the ASIGN server on the fly. A field-proven crowd-sourcing solution is operational with UN and EMSC for years. The ASIGN server also creates GeoRSS feeds that UNOSAT and Google overlays their crisis maps, helping interpretations of satellite images [...] ASIGN field clients run on Android, iPhone, PC, Mac and Linux. ASIGN and GEO-PICTURES are mature, operational solutions that are in use today. The crowd-sourcing solution was released at the GDACS meeting in May 2011 for Android, and in March (expected) 2012 for iPhone. [cf. http://www.ansur.no/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=100&Itemid=99]
EpiCollect by Imperial College, London, United Kingdom
EpiCollect.net provides a web application for the generation of forms and freely hosted project websites […] for many kinds of mobile data collection projects. Data can be collected using multiple mobile phones running either the Android Operating system or the iPhone (using the EpiCollect mobile app) and all data can be synchronised from the phones and viewed centrally (using Google Maps) via the Project website or directly on the phones. [cf. http://www.epicollect.net/
Field Reporting Tool (FRT) by JRC, Ispra, Italy
The Field Reporting Tool supports crisis situation awareness and post crisis needs assessments. During all phases of crisis management, it facilitates exchange data between headquarters and field teams in the most efficient and secure way to ensure timely shared situation awareness, and to better serve the field teams with shared situation assessments. All the information is stored in a common repository and shared among all the crisis players through a web portal and other geographic aware systems.
GINA System by GINA Software s.r.o., Czech Republic
GINA is an interactive map software for mobile devices permitting navigation in difficult terrain, teams coordination, and effective exchange of geographic information. Due to its features, GINA is destined for crisis management centres, rescue teams and other groups operating in difficult conditions. […]GINA is easy to control, because the use of the application has been inspired by an ordinary paper map. Just like you can draw on a map with a pen and stick a pin of various colours in it, GINA enables you to insert your own drawings […]. [cf. http://www.ginasystem.com/gina-system.htm
iGDACS by JRC, Ispra, Italy
iGDACS provides near real-time information about natural disasters and gives the possibility to send back information in the form of a geo-located image and/or text. The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS) is a cooperation framework between the United Nations, the European Commission and disaster managers worldwide to improve alerts and information exchange. iGDACS is intended to tap the abundant information about disasters available from people who actually experience them. Reports of the iGDACS users are used to improve the overall situational picture. [http://i.gdacs.org/
Open Data Kit by University of Washington and Google (presented by World Food Programme, HQ office in Rome)
Open Data Kit (ODK) [http://www.opendatakit.org] is an open source data collection tool for Android phones, developed by the University of Washington with the collaboration of Google. It has developed a large user community and is currently in use in many developing and developed countries. It consists of 3 components: "build" for building the data collection forms in the XForms format, "collect" which is the app for the data collection that runs on android phones and transmits the data using mobile internet connection, and "aggregate" which is a server application to receive, publish and export the data. Aggregate can be installed on the cloud-based Google Application Engine, or on a local server. The World Food Programme is currently developing customised versions of Open Data Kit and of FrontlineSMS to enable ODK to work with SMS-based text messaging and to enhance some of the mobile and server's data collection capabilities.