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SENSAFETY (Sensor Networks for Public Safety)

Intelligent lampposts warn crowds in emergency situations

SenSafety focuses on opportunistic sensing for safety in public spaces. Its goal is to collect, analyze and disseminate data by means of a sensor network. Opportunistic sensing systems consist of changing constellations of wireless sensor nodes that, for a limited amount of time, work together to achieve a common goal. Examples are the collection of data on city stress (noise, CO2 levels) or the movement of pedestrians and traffic in urban environments by means of smartphones. Opportunistic sensing is seen as a way to gather information about the physical world in addition to, or in the absence, of a stable and permanent sensor network.

Participating sensors are mobile in most cases, and cover large areas over time. It is estimated that 2000 opportunistic sensors collect, within the same timeframe, as much information as 20.000 static sensors. Opportunistic sensing is often combined with opportunistic and delay tolerant communication. This ensures that data is disseminated, even if there is no complete communication path from source to destination (sensor to server/database). Opportunistic (distributed) communication is a valuable addition to centralized communication that utilizes cellular base stations. Deployment of opportunistic systems, including mobile phones, offers the opportunity to collect information in places normally not covered by other sensors.

The potential of thousands of sensors and the resulting overwhelming amount of sensor data puts the project for a number of scientific and technical challenges:

  • Semantics: How to find higher-level meaning out of all data.
  • Scalability: How to let a network of thousands of nodes behave efficiently.
  • Dissemination: How to spread information in this network to inform people efficiently.
  • Opportunistic communication: How to communicate when the normal infrastructure is down.

The context in which SenSafety operates is the increasing complexity of society, with increased threats to safety in public places. This includes dangers coming from technical causes, like failing public transport infrastructure and malicious behavior of people, like vandalism or terrorism. Critical infrastructures such as power plants, large industrial areas, harbors, railway emplacements, but also people-rich structures like railway stations, are essential enablers of our economy and way of living. The number of threats that may disrupt the normal functioning of these infrastructures is growing and it is not likely to diminish in the coming years.

The aim of this project is:

  1. to offer real-time automatic analyses of potential hazardous situations and detection of important events and;
  2. give support in these situations to first responders to guarantee the safety of the general public as well as of the responding authorities.


Biggest results so far

Intelligent lampposts warn crowds in emergency situations

It is difficult to inform crowds in emergency situations because communication is hard and slow, and because people are pan­icking. Still, the public should be informed. The intelligent lamppost (iLP) informs au­thorities and general public in an intuitive way in case of emergencies. More.

ICT science question: the scientific question is in the area of intelligent interfacing: how to apply intelligent lampposts in an intuitive way, such that people immediately understand what the lamppost is trying to ‘tell’ them. Some attempts have already been made to apply.

Involved COMMIT/partners: PolitieUniversity Twente, Tendris, Strukton.

Using smartphones for emergency messaging

Even in case that a GSM network is down or overloaded, it is important for public safety that smartphones can still be used for emer­gency text messaging. In this way the authori­ties can inform the public about the emergency. We have developed a way to realize this emer­gency communication. More.

ICT science question: how can smartphones still be used for emergency messaging in the case that the GSM-network is down? What protocol do we need for this? How can we optimize its performance and the effec­tiveness? How do we make the protocol scalable from a small to a large network of smartphones? To solve these problems we use the WiFi (or Bluetooth) radio installed in almost every smartphone. Although this has been tried before, it could only be accomplished in phones that had been hacked in order to change the core software of the phone. Such efforts excluded the general public. Our protocol solves this problem as well.

Involved COMMIT/partners:  Politie, University Twente.​

Emergency communication  technology for crowd safety

In emergency situations at crowded festi­vals and parades the 3G- and WiFi-net­works often fail or become inefficient due to overload. We present a set of new and unique wireless sensor network technolo­gies that help to solve this problem. More.

ICT science question: how can we develop efficient algorithms for detecting important image features? How can we use the mobile phones of the crowd’s participants to cope with the low bandwidth of current networks? How can UAVs be used to quickly deploy a network infrastructure for monitoring crowds?

Involved COMMIT/partners: Politie, TU/e, Thales, ESI.