Groundbreaking Space Technology Project Will Save Lives During Emergencies And Disasters

( Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona ) The European GEO-PICTURES project combines state-of-the-art satellite communication, navigation and Earth observation for saving lives in great disasters.

Targeted for use in emergencies, GEO-PICTURES will save lives and mitigate disaster effects on environment. In emergency situations striking humanity, environment and the civil public, it is of paramount importance to communicate from the field what has happened and where as quickly and accurately as possible so that appropriate actions can be taken. One cannot rely on an existing infrastructure except satellite communications for global coverage. GEO-PICTURES provides near-real-time input of pictures, video, sensors and assessment results worldwide. The novel emergency management platform will be developed in Oslo with several partners, and form a seamless solution hosted by United Nations (UNOSAT-UNITAR) on the CERN campus in Geneva. The European project is lead by AnsuR Technologies AS of Norway and co-funded by the European Commission under the 7th Framework program.

Partners with specific expertise in rapid on-line mapping will produce real-time situational maps with a combination of space & terrestrial image and sensor information. Completely new and a missing link in operations this provides a significant contribution to larger and medium scale emergency management all over the world, and specifically in areas with poor communication infrastructure after the disasters.

GEO-PICTURES combines state of the art in satellite communication, navigation and earth observation, based on a core technology with geo-tagged image and sensor communication combined with latest satellite earth observation. A main challenge is high resolution photo communications without broadband infrastructure. An innovation award winning core concept already tested forms an excellent basis for enhancement, further integration and direct use in operations.

A key technology component is provided and developed further by AnsuR Technologies AS of Norway. Says Dr. Harald Skinnemoen, Founder and Managing Director of AnsuR: "We are extremely proud to have won this project in Europe in challenging competition, and to have been chosen to lead this prestigious European consortium. It shows that Norway has excellent technology for global disaster management, as well as a long tradition to care and contribute to humanitarian operations and efforts"

GEO-PICTURES allows a large number of accurate optical field observations, tagged with position, transferred via satellite-optimized protocols to a control center. Optical observations include photos, video, audio and sensors that measures temperature, moisture, wind etc; data that is helpful in emergency/disaster management and for improving interpretation of space based remote sensing data.

Continues Harald: "This is a very proud moment for AnsuR and our long and sustainable efforts in developing our technology. We are happy that we have been entrusted by the EU lead this project and for their confidence in our skills as project leaders and key technology developers in space based satellite and wireless image communications for disaster and emergency response.

GEO-PICTURES will also design small lightweight equipment based on the latest mobile technology; in particular the open Linux based platform Android. This will give disaster management experts an all-in-one tool for rapid damage assessment, in addition to the dedicated camera/computer/communication unit solutions. The consortium also considers small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) as a platform for observations.

Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona is proud to be a member of this world class consortium. Our contribution to the project will be interdisciplinary in nature and will focus on different aspects of the target resilient technology for global disaster management. In particular, three research groups from three different Departments are involved. The research group GICI (Group of Interactive Coding of Images), with the Information and Communications Engineering Department is lead by Dr. Joan Serra-Sagristà and will focus on the compression and transmission of huge images through JPEG2000 and JPIP protocol to provide near real-time access to GMES data. The research group GRUMETS (Group of Methods and Applications in Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems), with the Geography Department is lead by Prof. Dr. Xavier Pons and will focus on advancing Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) for emergency management, suggesting and testing solutions for fast standard web services implementations in addition to easy creation and updating of datasets on them. The research group of Wireless and Satellite Communications, with the Telecommunications and Systems Engineering Department is lead by Dr. M. A. Vázquez-Castro and will focus on how to guarantee low-cost and robust communication access and wireless and satellite networking from and to the emergency/disaster area.

Being able to contribute to such an important field naturally triggers particular interest and enthusiasm. We believe that the impact for Spain will be important given the fact the increasing interest of technologies and solutions for disaster management.

GEO-PICTURES can be used for disaster management worldwide, and the solution as in an early form already contributed to disaster management in Haiti after the recent Earthquake.