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New technology applications benefit emergency services

March 2013, Geneva, Switzerland - UNOSAT is constantly partnering with public and private ventures to research new applications of geospatial technology that have the potential to make the work of the UN more effective or less expensive. Some of this effort over the past three years went into a successful project named iRESCUE.

iRESCUE means “images for Rapid mapping, Enhanced Security and Communication for Universal Emergency services,”  and it was  fully implemented under Eurostars funding by UNOSAT, AnsuR Technologies (project coordinator) and Locus Scandinavia (project's technical advisor). The project was aimed essentially at the needs of users from the emergency response and citizen security sectors having a need for customized geo-tagged information integrating communication, imagery, and video.

Building on the successful experience of GEO-PICTURES, another project funded by the European Commission in which UNOSAT partnered with AnsuR Technologies, iRESCUE's main output is a viable way to integrate live video from Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) together with satellite imagery and the ASIGN solution for geotagging that, thanks to iRescue, can now run on iPhones, in addition to the previous Android version.

To ensure that the solution can be used in real situations for coordination, and that the location- and time-tagged information can be easily used in the field, a few simulations and exercises involving field teams and operations centres were successfully carried out. In addition to providing validated user requirements, UNOSAT actively tested the new solutions using both Android and iPhone hand-held smartphones, and by integrating near real-time information with satellite imagery and UAV photos. Tests were carried out with the participation of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the World Health Organization (WHO), and included UAV live video transfer to operations centres.

iRescue did more than applied research, it also provided an integrated pilot solution to the 112 Fire & Rescue service in the community of Gjøvik in Norway. The solution has been in use since March 2011 and has been updated on several occasions. The system allows a command centre to remotely control a truck-mounted PTZ (Pan, Tilt, Zoom) High Definition video camera over the terrestrial Nordic ICE mobile network. Additional tests were carried out with the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) and during police drug control exercises and wildfire exercises.

UNOSAT Manager Einar Bjorgo explained, "our participation in this type of research projects is important because we can see how the solutions play out in the field while we gain first-hand knowledge on state-of-art integrated solutions for emergency response. We expect that several of these new solutions emerging from research will turn into useful applications in the field very soon.”


Images courtesy of iRESCUE project