German researchers developing better rescue safety system
The advent of satellite technology has opened up a world of good for Europeans. This is especially true for a team of researchers from the Germany-based Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, who are focusing on strengthening emergency rescue services with the development of a state-of-the-art localisation system.
In one of their latest projects, the researchers are working on a solution that combines satellite-based positioning with terrestrial guidance tools and situation-based sensor systems, including integrated toxic gas sensors. Beneficiaries of this system will be rescue professionals; while they are out saving lives in times of disaster, the system will watch after them.
According to the researchers, modern localisation systems offer rescuers exactly what they need to stay safe while they do their jobs. For example, firefighters are exposed to various dangers like collapsing buildings and noxious fumes. Their superiors need to know exactly where they are and if potential danger lurks around the corner. Thanks to localisation systems, rescue teams can be integrated into emergency planning.
For their part, the experts have noted the ineffectiveness of control station management. They say that as time is of the essence, ineffective coordination of response strategies and inefficient control station management could play havoc with the rescue work.
In order to get a handle on risky situations, the team favours positioning rescue teams and essential supplies and equipment with the aid of global navigation satellite systems (GNSS), which includes the US-based Global Positioning System (GPS) and Europe's Galileo, which is being built by the EU and the European Space Agency.
The researchers at Fraunhofer have set up a Galileo lab for developing the new GNSS-based localisation technologies, they said. The team will present the results of their research at the Munich transport logistics trade show from 12 to 15 May 2009.
The Galileo satellite navigation system is being used in this research because it is a civilian-controlled system, compared with the GPS system which is run by the US military. The implementation of special services for civil applications, including rescue missions, is easier, they explained.
The team, whose members include experts from nine Fraunhofer institutes and the Fraunhofer Transport and Traffic Alliance, aims to provide services that localise people or goods in transportation, mobility, industry and the economy. With this in mind, the researchers are focusing on five application fields: safety, environmental applications (emission monitoring), logistics, travel assistance and infrastructure construction.
'If you analyse different target groups, it quickly becomes evident that the tasks are similar in terms of system architecture. Similar structures and content are always needed on similar end devices,' said Mr Werner Schönewolf, product manager at the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Systems and Design Technology IPK. '[Examples are] data indicating where an individual is located, sensors that deliver specific values such as toxic gas concentrations, or end devices that function as clients. Our objective is to offer a universal, service-oriented software architecture that works as a building-block system to allow configurable application profiles.'
The team is using Galileo data and testing combined receivers for several satellite systems because better positioning and precise navigation can be secured with the combined satellites in the skies, the experts said.
'We're developing our GNSS platform from the collective data gathered from GPS, GLONASS [a Russian satellite network] and Galileo,' Mr Schönewolf explained. 'With data from 70 satellites in the sky, people and goods can be located much more precisely than ever before - even in deep canyons of urban areas, which were a challenge until now.'
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Data Source Provider: Fraunhofer Gesellschaft
Document Reference: Based on information from the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft
Subject Index: Coordination, Cooperation; Information Processing, Information Systems; Materials Technology; Network technologies ; Safety; Space & satellite research