This article is published in the June 2017 issue.

Research Agenda in Intelligent Infrastructure to Enhance Disaster Management, Community Resilience and Public Safety

What if a Category 5 hurricane were heading towards New Orleans right now? What would happen in 2017 that did not happen in 2005? We have learned a great deal from the lessons of Hurricane Katrina and other major incidents, and disaster prevention and recovery has dramatically improved in the last 12 years. Much of the improvement can be attributed to the integration of technology with a “whole of community” approach to emergency management that combines FEMA’s National Incident Management System, with advanced data visualization, mapping, and decision systems, and a National Disaster Recovery Framework targeting community recovery and not simply emergency response.

Recently, the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) in collaboration with the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Heads Association (ECEDHA) released white papers describing a collective research agenda for intelligent infrastructure. We will be blogging about each paper over the next few weeks.

Here, we highlight the Research Agenda in Intelligent Infrastructure to Enhance Disaster Management, Community Resilience and Public Safety paper.

As the nation becomes more connected, networked and technologically sophisticated, new challenges and opportunities arise that demand a rethinking of traditional approaches to public safety and emergency management. The design and integration of intelligent infrastructure—including embedded sensors, the Internet of Things (IoT), advanced wireless information technologies, real-time data capture and analysis (such as FEMA’s National Incident Management System), and machine-learning-based decision support—holds the potential to greatly enhance public safety, emergency management, disaster recovery, and overall community resilience. At the same time, however, the integration of these systems will add increasing complexity, requiring continuing research to optimize the new technologies and manage potential vulnerabilities. The continuing challenges of current and future disasters will require that the U.S. engage in an ongoing program of research, technology development, and strategic planning.

Research in intelligent infrastructure will save lives, improve disaster resilience, and enhance the quality of life. It will also accelerate social and economic recovery and care for victims in disaster-affected regions and ensure continuity of governance and social stability. A roadmap would create a common ground for researchers and a broad portfolio of research grants managed through a network of regional university-based centers would support formative experimentation and evaluation of progress aligned with local environments and regional threats and vulnerabilities.

Below are some examples where priority should be placed in research on emerging intelligent infrastructure:

Sensing and Data Collection

  • Research in computer vision to advance capabilities in environmental monitoring and interpretation of imagery from unmanned aerial, ground, or marine systems, and integration with personal mobile sensors embedded in smart phones–including the associated video feeds from social media networks.
  • Methods to enable resilient integration, operation, and security of next generation IoT devices and technologies, combining stationary sensors with mobile sensing deployed in the field.

Communication and Coordination

  • Seamless integration of current and future communication infrastructures, legacy systems and advanced long-range wireless technologies and public safety networks to ensure reliable exchange of crisis-related information.
  • Improved integration and coordination of multi-team systems of first responders (e.g., firefighters, law enforcement and emergency medical personnel, search and rescue teams, and emergency management).

Big Data Modeling frameworks, Analytics and Tools for Disaster Prediction and Management

  • Probabilistic modeling of complex events to develop predictive analytics and enhance the capabilities for adaptive response, and to refine response planning.

Social Computing, Human Factors, and the Information Infrastructure

  • Research into disaster resilient communications and data management strategies to manage uncertainty across disaster warning, response, and recovery.
  • Natural interfaces and tools that enhance human capabilities to ask questions in a high-level manner that facilitate making decisions during extreme events.

Please read the paper for additional details on the research agenda for Intelligent Infrastructure to enhance community resilience, public safety, and disaster management.

Stay tuned to learn more about the other intelligent infrastructure papers!

Research Agenda in Intelligent Infrastructure to Enhance Disaster Management, Community Resilience and Public Safety