The objective of this research is to develop key components of community-based pervasive systems which will allow citizens to respond to disasters. The systems will make use of inexpensive networked sensors and communication devices distributed among families and communities. The sensors/devices will enable the collection of situational information and the dissemination of alerts, by use of fault and delay-tolerant networks, and through the use of Cloud computing and crowd sourcing techniques. The Indo-US partnership in this effort will study these issues in the context of the Indian subcontinent where urban and rural landscapes are unique.

Sensor-based detection technologies will be studied to help identify events, e.g. abnormal ground motion, and fault-tolerant networks will be designed to connect the sensor systems together and to a resource-rich cloud infrastructure. Methods for performing sensing analysis and data fusion in the cloud will be incorporated so as to address tradeoffs among rates of false positive alarms, false negative alarms, and time to detection. The existing infrastructure will also be used to design systems for delivering actionable alerts/information to responders and communities using multiple networks. The community-based sensing and alerting techniques developed will be evaluated in campus testbeds at UCI/Caltech, culminating in a pilot study/drill at one of the Indian institutions with regional experience in disaster management.

Dealing with disasters effectively is a global concern and techniques to leverage communities for data collection and alerting is an effective strategy, especially in nations with diverse populations with varying degrees of technological sophistication. The research will enable a new generation of community-based cyber-physical systems in emerging markets, in which the community helps to detect, communicate and respond to rapidly evolving events such as earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, floods and epidemics. Students at different levels (graduate, undergraduate, K-12) will gain experience with developing real-world applications in a global context via courses and independent study projects. Students will benefit tremendously from exposure to the next generation of community-based cyber-physical systems technologies that will help design safer living environments for the future,

Project Report

The aim of this project, a collaboration between Caltech, the University of California at Irvine and institutes in India, was to develop computing technologies that help mitigate disasters such as earthquakes, fires, floods and radiation leaks. The project investigated the use of cloud based aggregation of sensor data, as well as the development of sensors attached to small and portable computing devices. Particular focii were a) methods of generating reliable hazard alerts, and b) developing affordable sensors and purpose built network infrastructure for alerting. The project was worked on by faculty, staff and students at all the institutes. As part of the project, students from IIT Gandhinagar travelled to Caltech to work on the project, and staff and faculty travelled to Gandhinagar to give a special lecture series on computing for hazards, which was delivered to IIT undergraduates in January-March 2013. Highlights of the project outcomes include a) the development of ad-hoc network infrastrucure for delivering alerts following damage to the existing infrastructure, b) the development of an affordable hazard "weather station" for detecting hazards in homes and businesses, and c) the series of lectures for undergraduates on the topic of pervasive computing for disaster response.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Computer and Network Systems (CNS)
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Program Officer
Harriet G. Taylor
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California Institute of Technology
United States
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