NSF-sponsored research project ALERT was presented at a statewide graduate research forum in Charlottesville on Thursday, February 14.
The Virginia Council of Graduate Schools (VCGS) Research Forum featured students from Virginia's 14 public colleges and universities, and was held at University of Virginia. It was held in conjunction with "Graduate Education for Virginia: STEMulating the Future" conference. More than 50 students in all presented their research and scholarship to members of state government, industry representatives, faculty and administrators from across the commonwealth, and the general public.
Brenda Neumon Lewis, ODU's associate vice president for graduate studies, said the forum is valuable for both the students and the university.
ODU's delegation comprised students from all five academic colleges. The ODU presentations ranged from research on wireless sensor networks to nursing skills training and evaluation. The students were chosen by the Office of Graduate Studies. "Our decisions were based, among other things, on the quality of the research proposals and the value of that research to the commonwealth," said Lewis. Syed's presentation was on NSF-sponsored ALERT project supervised by Michele C. Weigle and Stephan Olariu. He received a 'Certificate of Contribution' from Virginia Council of Graduate Schools for his presentation.
This year's forum placed special emphasis on the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The Commonwealth's programs of graduate education are central to realizing Virginia's vision of becoming a first-tier state in the U.S. technology arena, as well as central to Virginia's goal of securing a worldwide place of leadership in the information age. Syed's research presentation of ALERT project reflected the same essence of exploring the future of emergency response systems with modern information technology.
Abstract of the VCSG Research Forum 2012 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.