Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

FP7

VASCO — Result In Brief

Project ID: 607737
Funded under: FP7-SECURITY
Country: France
Domain: Security

Virtual reality enhances building security in high-risk urban environments

Virtual reality and simulation techniques developed by EU experts help emergency teams plan more effective crisis responses in complex urban settings.
Virtual reality enhances building security in high-risk urban environments
EU-funded software experts have created an innovative virtual reality platform in collaboration with security experts that allows crisis response teams to visualise, prepare and adjust security plans taking into account building configurations, surrounding urban characteristics and multiple threatening situations.

The threat of terrorist attacks has increased the need to protect sensitive buildings and critical infrastructure while still assuring adequate public access. As risks rise, planning rescue operations and safe evacuation in scenarios where fires block evacuation routes, a gunman has taken hostages, or groups of violent protesters are trying to enter a building, has become more challenging.

The EU-funded VASCO project (Virtual Studio for Security Concepts and Operations) harnesses the latest advances in virtual reality, simulation, disaster management tools and geographical mapping technologies. It uses these to create accurate three-dimensional representations of buildings in their urban environment using existing blueprints, 360-degree camera shots and other data on the buildings’ interior and exterior.

What-if situations to test security

The project, which included input from police, VIP protection teams, firefighters, counter-terrorism and anti-riot squads, emergency medical teams and others, also developed tools that simulate ‘what-if’ situations allowing response teams to assess risks, possible responses and pinchpoints.

These threat situations take into account other buildings and installations nearby or dense populations, traffic congestion and possible disruption caused by events such as mass protests or visiting dignitaries.

‘Police, firefighters or other experts can work together to discuss and fine tune the security of planned events or areas around the virtual representation of the site,’ says Chloé Delpont-Ramat, a software engineer at DIGINEXT, French coordinator of the VASCO consortium. ‘Normally, they would have to go to the real site or use physical mock-ups of the building which takes time and is often not flexible or even possible.’

Virtual security details

The resulting mock-up of the site can be navigated, inspected and further enhanced with security details such as virtual CCTV cameras, fire sprinklers, sensors, vehicle barriers and other items to test responses.

‘We researched and developed, for instance, a means to virtualise security cameras with the appropriate controls to allow users to see the cameras’ coverage and ascertain blind spots in the site,’ says Ms Delpont-Ramat.

The platform includes a replica control centre with a common grid view of all security cameras which can be controlled from within the software.

VASCO builds on other EU-funded projects – CRIMSON and INDIGO for digital preparation and training in crisis management.

End users in Greece, the Netherlands and Sweden, consulted during the VASCO project, have reported that the platform is effective in supporting interdisciplinary collaboration between security professionals.

Though initially intended for the preparatory phase of crisis response, the platform has demonstrated that response teams can effectively share information in a way that is immediately mutually-intelligible for diverse organisations involved.

‘Taskforce participants were very interested in the ability to receive screenshots of affected buildings with visual information about the known situation, together with annotations, on their smart phones while on the way to a scene,’ says Ms Delpont-Ramat.

Subjects

Safety

Keywords

VASCO, security, terrorism, cities, urban planning, software, disasters, virtual reality
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