Human mobility powers wireless communication for disaster relief

IANS
Sunday, July 16, 2017

Researchers from six Indian institutes, including IIT-Kharagpur and IIM-Calcutta, have developed a low-cost and fast deployable wireless communication infrastructure that is driven by human mobility to aid disaster management services.

They are working together since the last three years to enable the delivery of decentralised mobile communication services under project DiSARM: Post-Disaster Situation Analysis and Resource Management in situations where terrestrial telecommunication networks are damaged or severely impaired.

"In these emergency situations, alternative and flexible networking arrangements become critically important to ensure ongoing and effective coordination of emergency response and relief efforts. Our model works on peer-to-peer networking where humans are the data carriers," IIM-Calcutta professor Somprakash Bandyopadhyay, who is involved in the project, told IANS.

The project is funded by Information Technology Research Academy (ITRA) under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

Explaining the mechanism of deploying DiSARM, Bandyopadhyay likened it to a ferryboat system in which from one side of the river the ferryman is connecting the information to the other bank as he rows the boat.

"When you don't have any internet connectivity if you have a smartphone, you can connect with wifi (through an app) which is there on your phone. So when a volunteer is connecting the data from a victim through the phone, then he is physically moving and relaying that data to others (connected with wifi within that range) who are also moving," said Bandyopadhyay, a professor in Management Information Systems Group and Research Director of Social Informatics Research Group (SIRG) in IIM-Calcutta.

"They in turn are relaying the data about victims and the situation as they move and connect with wifi with others within their range," he added.

He said: "This movement pattern helps to communicate. Wifi part of it helps you to make a peer-to-peer network."

In scenarios where smartphones are not available, special routers placed at vantage locations become the connector of data.

"Whoever is going to the routers, gives the data to the device electronically. So it depends on human mobility," he said.

The other aspect of the project is tapping in data from social media to integrate with disaster management.

Partner institutes include NIT Durgapur, Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology, Shibpur (formerly Bengal Engineering and Science University), Heritage Institute of Technology (HIT) Kolkata and Kalyani Government Engineering College (KGEC).

"We have entrepreneurs who are our students who are taking this up and have formed a company and moving ahead so they can actually deploy this real-time. The entrepreneurial part is about selling this as a complete product/service. Either you pay for the service or you pre-deploy it in disaster prone areas and then go for the service," he added.

Bandyopadhyay was speaking on the sidelines of the just-concluded 'Exploring Mobile Computing, Networking & Applications for Development in India' workshop organised by SIRG and ITRA.


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