Servizio Comunitario di Informazione in materia di Ricerca e Sviluppo - CORDIS

Periodic Report Summary 2 - WESENSEIT (WeSenseIT: Citizen Observatory of Water)

Project Context and Objectives:
Climate change is expected to significantly affect water quality, water availability and flooding: when combined with increased urbanisation, it’s expected to cause annual flood losses across the EU to rise from €4.9bn to €23bn per year by 2050.
Traditional approaches to water cycle monitoring (satellite and in-situ observations) have two major drawbacks. First, the density and resolution of the collected data is still too low to describe the status of the water cycle (especially during anomalous events such as floods and continuing droughts). Second, it promotes a passive role of the community in which citizens are generally at the end of the information chain.
WeSenseIt is developing a citizen observatory of water that will allow citizens and communities to take on a new role in the information chain: a shift from the traditional one-way communication paradigm towards a two-way communication model in which citizens become active stakeholders in information capturing, evaluation and communication. This citizen observatory leverages environmental data and knowledge (from both professionals and communities) to effectively and efficiently manage water resources.
WeSenseIt adopts an interdisciplinary approach based on three different aspects of community participation in water governance:
(i) environmental non-structured data collection via optimized networks of sensors as well as information provided directly by citizens (measurements, images, messages) and via mining of social media (collective intelligence);
(ii) development of descriptive and predictive models (both physical/natural and social) and decision-making tools that will be able to optimally assimilate both social and physical data;
(iii) two-way feedback and exchange of environmental knowledge/experience between citizens and authorities for decision-making, planning and governance.
To support this, WeSenseIt is developing an information ecosystem for communities and citizens, as well as emergency operators and policymakers, for discussion, monitoring and intervention on water bodies and services. The collected data will be made available through the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).
The key part of WeSenseIt is direct involvement of user communities in the data collection process. An innovative two-layer approach is proposed to carry out data collection. The first 'hard' layer consists of static and portable devices that sense and transfer water information when automatically monitored (remote sensing) or when initiated by the citizens from their mobile device. The second 'soft' layer consists of techniques to harness citizens’ Collective Intelligence, i.e. the information, experience and knowledge embodied within individuals and communities, both in terms of enabling direct messages (with mobile-phone pictures, verbal descriptors, etc.) and in terms of crowdsourcing (e.g. by mining social networks and discussion forums where discussions are held).
The collected information is directly assimilated into the data-driven models, leading to improved forecasts and emergency warnings. WeSenseIt empowers citizens and communities and encourages them to observe, measure and share all kinds of water related variables.
WeSenseIt facilitates the exchange of experience and feedback to ensure innovative continuing user involvement and community creation and maintenance. This two-way communication -- the essential component for effective participation -- allows citizens to play an integral role in water governance (policies, plans and decisions).
The citizen water observatory is being tested and validated in three case studies in Doncaster (UK), Delft (the Netherlands) and Vicenza (Italy). The case studies cover the entire hydrologic cycle with a major focus on variables responsible for floods and drought occurrences.

Project Results:
The second period of the WeSenseIt Project built on the results of the first eighteen months and the first evaluation period.
WP1 has seen the development of a wide variety of sensors, including the development of novel physical sensors: the umbrella acoustic rain detector, low cost sensible heat flux sensor and a camera-based water velocity monitor. A number of mobile device apps have been developed which utilise the sensing capabilities of smartphones to provide both active and passive citizen engagement, these include activity monitoring, a webRTC-based approach to enable a live video connection, and crowd-monitoring using both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi signals. The second period has seen the on-going evaluation of these sensors, including the deployment in the case study areas, along with our more traditional sensors such as weather stations and soil moisture probes. In addition to the sensors a novel sensor communication network has been developed and deployed enabling point-to-point communication of up to 2km.
WP2 has developed a methodology for incorporating social sensor data into heterogeneous sensor networks by correlating the frequency of terms within social media messages to physical observations. WP2 has also development algorithms for optimisation of the heterogeneous sensor network.
WP3 has continued development of the PriceXD hydrological model, incorporating a novel technique of pyramiding, which combines cells on different ‘view levels’ to increase performance making it feasible to work with in urbanised and rural environments.
WP4 has developed e-collaboration tools, which provide navigation, filtering and searching functionalities over dynamic data sets. These have been implemented and released, providing a citizen, community and decision-makers portal. A number of technologies have been developed which allow citizens to collect and share, between them and with the authorities, water related data and information, and provide decision-makers with a lightweight, process and platform independent approach for real-time logging of their decisions. WP4 has also provided an interface between the data generated in WSI and the GEOSS/GMES. WP1 has also examine techniques which validate remote sensing maps with the WSI ground-based observations.
WP5 has developed a platform which enables flexible integration of all elements: physical and social sensors, models, e-collaboration applications, Decision Support tools as well as integration with external systems (GEOSS, external data sources etc.). The second project period focused largely in implementing horizontal scalability and resilience of the platform. The capabilities of the platform can be increased on the fly by connecting additional hardware servers in the cloud, handling potentially – if necessary - petabytes of data. This was aimed at preparing for evaluation at larger scale: with new physical and social sensors, integrating data from new sources, providing reliable backend for new and extended mobile applications and involving citizens at large scale
WP6 has examined the engagement of citizens: for example both professional land drainage groups and youth groups in the UK, local non-civil protection citizens and schools in Italy and citizens concerned with water quality in swimming lakes, in the Netherlands. A selection of instruments (e.g. interviews, questionnaires, observation) have been employed to determine the best practices for motivating and retaining citizen participation in Observatories. Ensuring that both citizen and professional requirements are considered.
The technologies and methodologies developed in the second phase of WeSenseIt are undergoing continual evaluation in each of the three case study locations (WP7). Therefore the project evaluations involves laboratory testing of algorithms and technologies and long term field trials and short-term flood event exercises.

Potential Impact:
WeSenseIt's main output will be a validated citizen observatory for water, combining innovative sensor devices and the exploitation of collective intelligence.
WeSenseIt technology will facilitate sustainable development of the natural and human environment and its resources by advancing our knowledge on the interactions between the biosphere, eco-systems and human activities. WeSenseIt will develop new technologies (sensors, modelling approaches as well as the integrating infrastructure of the socio-technical citizen observatory of water) that will help deal with water-related phenomena and events, ranging from local management to linking in with global water governance processes. Moreover, the innovative approach to combine information from physical and social sources about water-related phenomena is specifically designed to extend the knowledge base about the interactions between the natural environment and human activities. When calibrated, the approach to sensing and modelling can also be used to correlate social trends in other areas of environmental concern with low availability of hard data and/or to predict the behaviour of communities with a similar availability of in-situ monitoring data.
The WeSenseIt citizen observatory of water specifically focuses on supporting agencies such as emergency services as well as policy makers to deal with environmental risks such as floods and droughts, and with longer term concerns and planning tasks related to sustainability. This will be enabled by the monitoring, modelling and communication components that the observatory will encompass.
WeSenseIt will empower citizens and citizens' associations, allowing them to contribute to environmental governance processes in the domain of transparency through continuous exchange of knowledge and experience envisaged by the WeSenseIt platform. While citizens are able to express their opinions and make them known efficiently and directly to policy makers, decision-makers can benefit from direct communication channels to a range of opinions and concerns that may be relevant. WeSenseIt overcomes the chasm between formal mechanisms of democratic legitimacy and public confidence in decision makers' competence. WeSenseIt will reconcile democratic benefits of participation and institutional complexities of governance.
The WeSenseIt platform will greatly contribute to retaining knowledge as well as continuously extending the knowledge base about both, physical and related social phenomena. Perhaps the most important empowerment enhancement with respect to knowledge management, accountability and responsiveness, will come through the continuous feedback that citizens receive on the basis of their own data. They will become citizen scientists aware of the complexities of their natural and social environments in a field that they care about.
WeSenseIt allows citizens to contribute information about water-related phenomena. Making the results available to decision makers as well as citizens will serve to redress the problem of information resource asymmetries. WeSenseIt enables citizens to feed their experience and expertise into the governance process, thus creating an upward spiral of increased engagement and participation. Decision makers can increase their ability to empathize with and reflect upon the preferences and values of citizens at large. As Europe is preparing to meet the great challenges of our time, such as climate change and energy, WeSenseIt contributes to dealing with these challenges by building up the experience and knowledge base on managing water-related phenomena such as floods and droughts, and providing specific warning and forecast services.

List of Websites:

Reported by

United Kingdom