Disaster Preparedness & Recovery

3 Emerging Technologies That Will Impact Emergency Management

3. iDAWG

During a worst-case emergency scenario, communication between responders is both necessary and difficult. Much research and effort has gone into interoperable communications, including at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies where a device is being developed that will maintain communication between different devices without relying on cell towers or Internet networks.

The iDAWG — Intelligent Deployable Augmented Wireless Gateway — works with a new class of software, called edgeware, that connects devices and information and helps with machine-to-machine communication. Professor Lee McKnight said the process is similar to ad-hoc networking in which a local network is built spontaneously as devices connect to one another. McKnight explained that when a user connects to a wireless network during everyday life, he or she doesn’t connect computer to computer because of increased security risks. Following a disaster, however, it could be one way of communicating and connecting with others. According to a university paper, iDAWG is an “infrastructureless wireless network based on a cognitive radio-based field deployable unit with information sharing/communication capabilities.”


Click on the image to see a larger size. Image courtesy of Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies.


The paper stated that: “The iDAWG is designed to securely capture and share multiple wireless transmission media including police, fire, EMS, municipal, private, cellular and CB bands by acting as a signal repeater to provide or extend service on scene.”

Joe Treglia, assistant director of the university’s Wireless Grid Innovation Testbed, said technologies for interoperability in data and communications like iDAWG and edgeware are significant for communication between traditional and nontraditional responders during an emergency.

The School of Information Studies’ students and professors are working with public safety and emergency management representatives to understand their needs. They observed a multiagency exercise in August and have demonstrated some of iDAWG’s capabilities to a local 911 call center and an immigrant relocation group.

“The involvement of university researchers with practitioners and the public is a fairly new collaborative arrangement that brings new broader insights to the issues and creates actual solutions for incorporating this new way of operating and managing crises,” Treglia said.

In addition to iDAWG’s core components, Syracuse University researchers are working with the Rochester Institute of Technology’s low-flying plane that captured imagery of the destruction from real-world events like the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti in January 2010. Developed by the Information Products Lab for Emergency Response, the plane could continue to deliver the images to incident commanders through iDAWG even in the event that cell towers and the Internet are down. “The iDAWG is designed to be capable of receiving and then relaying these kinds of emergency field images,” McKnight said.

The iDAWG is also going to be able to work with FEMA’s Integrated Public Alerts and Warning System. The research is receiving funding from the National Science Foundation Partnerships for Innovation Program and includes Virginia Tech, Syracuse University and the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Elaine Pittman  |  Associate Editor

Elaine Pittman is the associate editor of Emergency Management magazine. She covers topics including public safety, homeland security and lessons learned. Pittman is also the associate editor for Government Technology magazine. She can be reached via email and @elainerpittman on Twitter.

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