Communication software could enhance rescue operations

1 min read

Kingston University researchers have developed a software application to ensure that breakdowns in communication are a thing of the past for emergency workers responding to disasters.

A team led by Dr Christos Politis designed the software to keep rescuers and their central control room in touch independently, rather than using central wireless access points or the TETRA police radio system.

The software, which can be used on an iPad or other personal digital assistant (PDA), will also allow emergency service workers in the UK to talk to counterparts across Europe on a secure system.

‘When there’s a major terrorist event, earthquake or forest fire, traditional phone lines and radios often can’t cope and tend to jam because of the volume of calls and other multimedia traffic, such as video,’ said Politis. ‘Using our new software application, emergency service staff will be able to communicate on their own autonomous network using any available smart device without having to rely on a central communication system.’

The research, funded by the European Union’s PEACE project, is built on existing work into mobile networks, known as Mobile Ad hoc Networks, or MANETs. These are networks of self-configuring mobile devices that work independently and are connected by individual wireless links.

Rather than connecting through an external network, the new software allows rescue workers to set up an independent communication system designed for their specific purposes at the scene, whatever the situation or location — be it an underground tube station or next to a collapsed office block.

The Kingston prototype software will now be refined and could be rolled out to emergency services within two years.