EU network provides early warning in case of environmental risk to health The results of an EU funded project seeking ways to transmit environmental hazard warning to people at risk through various complimentary communication channels shows remarkable potential and has attracted strong interest, says EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media... The results of an EU funded project seeking ways to transmit environmental hazard warning to people at risk through various complimentary communication channels shows remarkable potential and has attracted strong interest, says EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media, Viviane Reding. Presenting the project at a press conference on 21 February, Ms Reding explained that the results of the APNEE project had been used to make a proposal to the EU Tsunami Working Group which will be presented at the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis in November 2005. 'The results of this project have been tested and interest is very strong,' said the Commissioner. 'We have been studying the potential of mobile phones in a disaster scenario. We now need to work with regulators and mobile phone providers and we want a project in that sense,' she added. The APNEE (Air pollution network for early warning and online information exchange in Europe) project, funded under the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5), designed and evaluated customisable information services to reach European citizens. These use different information channels, such as text services to mobile phones and PDAs, WAP (Wireless Application Protocol), Internet and electronic street panels to warn citizens of environmental risks to health. As project coordinator, Thomas Rose from the Fraunhofer FIT Institute in Germany, explained that until, now most warnings of adverse environmental conditions have made through broadcast channels. However, radio or television reaches a much larger audience than the population actually at risk. National and regional authorities have found it difficult to 'narrowcast' specific environmental warnings or advice only to those living within a specific area. 'With our system,' explained Dr Rose, 'the people affected will receive early warning thanks to a short information [text] by SMS. They will then be able to seek further information from the WAP while being mobile and finally retrieve detailed information when Internet access is available.' The APNEE project looked into the efficiency of different communication channels, for example what channel is best employed in certain situations and how best to present the information, taking into account regional and cultural diversity, Dr Rose said. It then customised the services, taking into account the nature of the information, the location of the user and the set of communication channels available. The services can be further customised and tailored to individual user preferences, for example in the case of personal health risks or allergies. A 'business collaboration' concept was developed to ensure that in each region covered by APNEE a trusted authority provides the air pollution data; research institutes and universities operate the models for forecasting air pollution; technological partners produce the Internet and WAP portals and the street panel interfaces; mobile and Internet information providers integrate the APNEE solution into their portals and telecommunication companies distribute the messages by SMS, MMS and WAP, as well as via smart phones and PDAs. Migration of the dissemination platform designed by APNEE to other application domains that need to provide timely and location-dependent information is the next logical step, concluded Dr Rose. The know-how of when and how to use the various information channels might be used for alerting people to natural or man-made disasters, such as forest fires and risks from flooding, or offering appropriate guidance and advising how to react.