IN THE IMMEDIATE aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, following the collapse of the World Trade Center’s south tower, police helicopters circling its stricken twin made some worrying observations. But with the communication systems linking the emergency services stretched to breaking point the resulting evacuation warning, issued 21 minutes before the second tower came down, went unheard. And as the structure crashed to the ground, the 120 firefighters still inside — many of whom were seconds from safety — lost their lives. It is a bleak illustration of the old adage that in the chaos of a disaster zone, information is the first casualty. From the London Tube bombings to Hurricane Katrina, the list of rescue efforts hampered by poor communications is long. Now, a UK team of engineers and mathematicians are working on a suite of computer-based technologies that promise to dramatically improve the response of emergency services in these kind of situations.
Jointly funded by BAE Systems and the EPSRC, the £6 million Aladdin (Autonomous Learning Agents for Decentralised Data and Information Networks) programme is a collaboration between BAE and the universities of Southampton, Bristol, Oxford and Imperial College. The group, which is headed up by Southampton computer scientist Prof Nick Jennings, is currently developing a range of sophisticated algorithms that can assimilate and analyse data from a variety of sources, figure out the most likely outcomes of particular situations and generally navigate a path through the chaos of an ongoing emergency.
Expected to come to an end in October 2010, the five-year programme is a continuation of an earlier project called Argus (a winner at The Engineer’s 2007 Technology and Innovation Awards). The aim of Argus was to enable multiple computer programs or ‘agents’ to communicate with each other and solve problems involving uncertainty. The partners involved, which included
Qinetiq, Rolls-Royce and BAE, were interested in applying these approaches
to problems relating to wide-area surveillance, air-traffic control and .... (click the link below to read more)
The RoboCupRescue disaster simulation platform version 1.0 was developed as part of the ALADDIN project.Learn more about RobocupRescue v1.0 »
Gaussian Processes have been developed to predict sensor readings on the Bramblet sensor network on the south coast of England.Learn more about LiveSensors! »