'Information agents' have been developed that could prove invaluable in decision-making and directing the actions of the emergency services in the immediate aftermath of natural disasters or terrorist attacks.
Information agents are pieces of software that can acquire and process real-time data collected from sensor networks in order to support situational awareness and operational decision-making.
With BAE Systems and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funding, the five-year ALADDIN programme involves scientists from BAE Systems and the universities of Southampton, Bristol, Oxford and Imperial College London.
A key aim of the project is to improve the way emergency services deal with and respond to major transport accidents, terrorist attacks and earthquakes, for instance – incidents typically characterised by confusion and uncertainty.
The agents make it possible to access and distribute, via PC, laptop or mobile, robust, up-to-the-minute data on the developing situation.
They also help emergency services to access key background information (such as specific details on the construction of the building where an emergency is occurring), as well as helping teams to co-ordinate activities more closely, even when they are on the move.
The information agents could be in widespread use in emergency response situations within the next three years. A live implementation of the software is already running (see http://www.aladdinproject.org/situation/).
This and other EPSRC-funded work on new-generation web-related technologies will be exhibited at 'Pioneers 09', an EPSRC showcase event being held at London's Olympia Conference Centre on Wednesday 4th March.
Materials provided by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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