Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Finding victims in post-disaster spaces


When earthquakes strike, people often get trapped in buildings. Search and rescue teams can pinpoint some victims using sniffer dogs and sensors. But a new European system that takes pictures during or after a building collapse promises to save many more lives.

The ‘low-cost catastrophic event capturing system’ is the fruit of the IST Loccatec project. It comprises capturing devices (small, autonomous infrared cameras) and a portable central unit for the rescue teams. The cameras – pre-installed in a building – only record images when they detect a structural collapse. Nearby rescue teams can wirelessly download these images and even set up an audio-link with the devices. The priority is to find where people are and the best routes to reach them.

Early tests were done in 2002, in the Italian town of San Juliano De Pulia – scene of the terrible earthquake that killed many schoolchildren. “After the disaster, we placed our cameras inside several damaged buildings earmarked for demolition,” says Uberto Delprato, project coordinator. The resulting eight films, recorded during demolition, were used to fine-tune the system’s ability to trigger image-recording during a building collapse.

The software algorithms for this triggering mechanism are unique. They can identify building collapse through a significant change in monitored structural elements – such as a when a roof falls. Loccatec has applied for a European patent for this software, and the hardware that stores and wirelessly transmits images.

While the system is similar to a burglar alarm, there are differences. “A burglar alarm continuously watches for break-ins, but does little else,” notes Delprato. “Loccatec only starts recording after the onset of a building collapse. And these are not just standard cameras, because they include lots of software.” Also unique is the system’s ability to multihop, allowing one device to act as a network bridge to others.

The images are stored on a chip at one frame per second, a rate which increases when collapse is imminent. A typical installation would have four cameras for a meeting room and ten for an auditorium. The cameras are placed on naturally strong elements, such as pillars. It is the task of the system’s algorithms to decide what is impending disaster and what is just human movement.

Public buildings, especially schools and hospitals, would be the first market for Loccatec. Not so much because of the cost of installation, but the need for someone to be responsible for the system.

One challenge is convincing the public that these capture devices are not secret cameras. The project coordinator is reassuring: “No images are recorded unless there is a disaster detected. Moreover, the transmission of images to a central unit is protected by a password and special protocol.”

In late 2004, the project will test the prototype system in Greece, using shaking tables to mimic an earthquake. Says Delprato: “Commercialisation of the system is a distinct possibility, provided a company takes it up. Meanwhile, we are going for the patent and want to exploit the system as a group of project partners.’

He foresees other applications for a low-cost device with a triggering mechanism. It could be used to mitigate disasters in chemical plants or to detect a bridge collapse during a flood.

Tara Morris | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Fraunhofer FIT joins Facebook's Telecom Infra Project
25.10.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT

nachricht Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions
21.10.2016 | Stanford University

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>