After 18 months of hard work the I-REACT team gathered in Torino to attend the Mid-Term review meeting and show for the first time a fully functional system ready to be tested in the management of disasters.

At the meeting, the I-REACT partners demonstrated that most of the work in data integration and modelling as well as in the construction of the big data architecture is nearly completed and remains be fine-tuned in the coming months. The same is true for the different technologies that will be provided to end-users, including the I-REACT web interface, the smart glasses or the mobile app.

All these technologies were tested in a practical demonstration were the team was split in 3 groups acting as first responders, citizens and decision makers. This way, the main crowdsourcing functionalities were tested including the in-field reporting through the mobile app, the validation of reports and sending of warnings from the control room or the social media analysis were tested.

After this small test, the work with end-users is starting as part of the demonstration and validation activities that aim to bring the I-REACT system closer to real-case scenarios. Five demonstrations are planned during the next 18 months, the first of which will be held in Zagreb on December 6th/8th together with the Sava River Commission to demonstrate the potential of I-REACT in the management of floods.

Finally, at the meeting the initial work in the exploitation of the project was presented with different business strategies to bring I-REACT to the market for the public and private sector. In addition, the communication and dissemination strategy showed to be succeeding in building of an important stakeholder community around the project.

Overall, EU Commission representative and two external reviewers assessed the activities and confirmed the high performance of I-REACT. Next week, I-REACT will pass another important test with the first end-user demonstration on its way towards generating the most efficient tool for disaster management in Europe.

We are one year closer to having the most advanced technological solution to prevent and fight disasters. This was the impression after the meeting held at the Finnish Meteorological Institute premises, on the 22nd and 23rd of June. At the event, the 20 partners of the I-REACT consortium reviewed the progress of the work and agreed on the next steps towards the finalisation of a emergency management system to be validated in real scenarios next year.

At the moment, the project is deeply immersed in the implementation phase, with intense activity in the three technical work packages that are the core of I-REACT. As part of the initial effort, the project has been actively working on the integration of existing data sources and systems related to natural hazards, in particular floods and fires, to fuel the overall system with useful information. These data sources includes existing ones such as Copernicus or local EMS as well as the Sentinell-1 satellite, whereas other information is currently being generated, such as the I-REACT historical disaster database. 

Discussion around the creation of the historical disaster database led by Gunter Zeug (Terranea).

Sequentially, several partners are working on how to model these data to extract additional valuable information, which include climate change and weather forecast models or social media analysis. Finally, this information will be channelled and made available to end-users thorugh serveral technologies including a decision support system, a web interface, or, remarkably, a wearable for which the first prototype is available.

Presentation of the I-REACT wearable prototype by Srdjan Tadic (Bitgear).

Overall, the progress of the work has been very successful and the increasingly stong consortium is facing the coming efforts with the confidence that an effective solution to disasters will be market-ready in less than 2 years time.

Group photo of the I-REACT team at the Finnish Meteorological Institute premises.

As the development of I-REACT is increasingly more tangible, our team is doubling efforts to contact the diverse stakeholders that could benefit from the technological solution of the project. This week has been particularly noticeable in this respect, with the celebration of several meetings that have led to the establishment of important connections.

On June 13th, our team was invited to meeting the International Sava River Commission to collaborate in the implementation of a new Early Warning system for floods funded by the World Bank. This system was presented in an advanced version under the name of Flood Forecasting and Warning System in the Sava River Basin (Sava FFWS), and was demonstrated to be ready for implementation. At the meeting, different ways of collaboration were explored. On the one hand, the possibility of integrating their data in the I-REACT platform was explored whereas, on the other, the consortium offered to provide different unique information derived from satellite modelling, social media analysis and citizen reports, for a better management of disasters in the region.

Sava River floods in 2014 (source Balkanist Magazine)

Later in the week, another meeting was held in Ljubljana hosted by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The meeting was focused on the implementation of the South East European Multi-Hazard Early Warning Advisory System (SEE-MHEWS-A), a large joint initiative for improving meteorological, hydrological and marine forecasting, through the enhancement of modelling, nowcasting, ICT infrastructure and data provision. In this context, our project will contribute to this large effort with novel products and services, from the crowdsourcing of information to the gamification of citizen reporting.

Important conclusions were extracted from both meetings that are in line with the efforts of our project. Emphasis was made towards people-centered systems are key in order to reduce the impact of disasters, and on the communication effort to create a risk-informed society. Overall, the contribution of I-REACT was appreciated in supporting the integration of citizen data, in the communication of warnings and risk awareness information through mobile phones and social media, but also in the creation of a Cloud based ICT infrastructure that is scalable, reliable,  flexible, and capable of handling Big Data in real-time. To this end, the modular architecture of I-REACT will allow interoperability with existing systems and provision of added value data and service to other initiatives such as Sava FFWS and SEE-MHEWS-A, at transboundary, EU, and global levels.

Fighting disasters is an immense effort that needs the cooperation of all of us. From citizens sending information through social networks, to scientists developing the latest technologies; from politicians working on prevention plans to civil protection helping on the ground. To this aim, the I-REACT consortium held a meeting at UNESCO (Paris) on 14-15 September 2016 with many different actors involved in preventing and managing disasters from different European countries and North America, to gather their expertise and knowledge towards generating the most efficient system to stop disasters.

I-REACT aims to go beyond the state of the art in the management of disasters. At the centre of the project, the I-REACTOR is conceived as a complex system to integrate and generate large amounts of data that will generate valuable information before, during and after emergencies.

Coordinating efforts is essential to design and set up such an ambitious platform in the reduced timeframe (3 years) of the project. That was the reason for the I-REACT team to organise a meeting in November 24/25, gathering representatives from the 20 partners at the firefighters premises in Barcelona.

At the meeting, the different element of the platform were discussed to make sure all efforts were aligned to put forward a novel system integration. After two intense days everything is in place to proceed with the subsequent developments of I-REACT. Ahead of us lie 30 more months of work towards the completion of the I-REACT project.

Climate change is a global problem. For this reason, in 1992 the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was established.  Today 197 countries are Parties of this Convention, and they gather every year in international conferences to assess their progress in dealing with climate change.

In last year’s Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris, the first universal and legally binding global climate agreement was approved. This Paris climate agreement just entered into force on the 4th of November of 2016 and therefore, this year’s conference COP22 focuses on action and helping countries develop their national Adaptation Plans to fulfil the Paris agreement goals. The COP22 is taking place in Marrakech, Morocco, from the 7th to the 18th of this month.

At this meeting, the UNESCO pavilion in the civil society area of the conference venues, provides an opportunity to engage with different stakeholders to collectively address climate change. Since climate change is playing a major role in disasters, I-REACT is one of the projects  that UNESCO is presenting in Marrakech these days, to discuss the ideas and solutions offered by our project with experts, civil society representatives and DRR specialists.

 

Held every 13 October, the day celebrates how people and communities around the world are reducing their exposure to disasters and raising awareness about the importance of reining in the risks that they face. This year, the theme is Live To Tell: Raising Awareness, Reducing Mortality and the campaign seeks to create a wave of awareness about actions taken to reduce mortality around the world. Science and technology play a vital role in providing societies with the tools to anticipate and effectively tackle disasters. This is the aim of the I-REACT project, which is presented in the occasion of the International Day for Disaster Reduction with the launch of a promotional video!

 

The International workshop “Increasing Resilience to Natural hazards through Information and Communication Technology”, organised on 14-15 September 2016 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, will bring together policy-makers, emergency service providers and science and technology experts from different European countries to discuss key issues and deficiencies in disaster risk reduction.

The workshop is organised by UNESCO under the European Commission-funded innovation project “Improving Resilience to Emergencies through Advanced Cyber Technologies” (I-REACT), which aims to use new information and communication technologies to support the entire emergency management cycle in case of floods, wildfires, and other extreme weather events.

 

Extreme disasters such as fires and floods cause thousands of deaths and serious economic losses around the globe. In the past 10 years, according to the United Nations, extreme events cost up to 1.7 trillion of dollars and caused 0.7 million deaths. Besides, with the ongoing rise in global temperatures due to climate change, extreme weather events and their consequences will become more and more frequent.

 

In order to respond to this growing problem, the I-REACT consortium is holding an international workshop to exchange ideas, identify deficiencies and improve current systems for disaster risk reduction. The workshop will gather civil protections, emergency responders, policy-makers, emergency service providers and science and technology experts from different European countries.

 

The event, hosted by UNESCO, is a milestone of the innovation project I-REACT. The project brings together 20 partners from 9 European countries to develop an emergency management system leveraging on new information and communication technologies, crowdsourced data and technologies such as augmented reality.

 

The two-day workshop in Paris is built upon an interactive framework in which emergency responders and international advisors will interplay with I-REACT system developers, providing feedback on how the system should be conceived, designed and developed in order to better tackle the hazards at stakes – mainly floods and wildfires. In particular, the event is aimed at how to bridge the gap between innovative solutions and end users in the field of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) due to the lack of information, the inherent complexity of modern tools of and poor interoperability.

The workshop is consistent with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, which stresses the importance of using appropriate communications, geospatial and space-based technologies together with their related services to strengthen the use of mobile phone networks to support national measures for successful disaster risk communication, as appropriate and in accordance with national laws.

 

Fabrizio Dominici, I-REACT project coordinator stresses out that “fostering discussion between the different players in the emergency management process is essential to collectively increase the resilience of societies”. In this sense, “the workshop in Paris will serve to identify venues in which I-REACT will contribute to improving prediction and management of natural disasters in real scenarios such as those faced daily by authorities, civil protection services and first-responders”.

 

On the 23rd of June 2016, a side event on “High Impact Weather and Climate Induced Emergencies” was held as part of the Fourth meeting of the Community of Users on Safe, Secure and Resilient Societies. This event was organised under the umbrella of our project and in collaboration with ANYWHERE (Enhancing emergency management and response to extreme weather and climate events), which have been recently funded under the DRS-1-2015 call for crisis management to respond to extreme weather and climate events. This session was meant to stimulate exchanges and collaboration between these two projects, as well as fostering interaction with end-users.

Both projects aim to leverage on technological advancements to increase the resilience of European citizens and assets to natural disasters. Although their approach differs in scope and technical implementation, both projects aim to provide comprehensive analysis systems to integrate multiple data sources and provide the fastest and most accurate information to all stakeholders involved in disaster prevention and management.

The event revolved around three main themes in which both projects have a crucial stake. A first discussion was held on the mechanisms to incorporate the real needs of first responders, risk managers and policy implementation organisms, in the management of high impact weather induced emergencies. At this session representatives of the Spanish administration commented on hydrometeorological Early Warning Systems, previous European project coordinators (DROUGHT-R&SPI and WMO/GWP projects) elaborated on drought management and policy making and UNESCO representatives discussed on the international cooperation in DRR issues. The second theme was centred on building a Community of Users in climate and weather induced emergencies. At this session, experiences from previous initiatives and current networks were discussed with the participation of JRC presenting the Community of Users of EFAS, the RISC-KIT project coordinator sharing experiences on the integration of stakeholders and end users of hydro-meteorological events in the coastal zone, and the online tool USHAHIDI was presented as a way to link citizens during disasters. The third theme was focused on the market uptake of the DRS solutions, potentially those developed as part of I-REACT and ANYWHERE projects. Discussion around this issue was held by representatives from the I-REACT partners AQUOBEX, specialised in technological solutions to floods, and geo-information specialists GEOVILLE, in addition to the ANYWHERE partner AIRBUS, that presented different technological solutions on DRR.

Overall, the event fostered synergies and collaborations between past and present European projects, and end-users, in order to integrate information and provide joint solutions to the management of disaster risks and crises of different kinds.

I-REACT has just started. It will help in preventing and managing emergency situations. Thanks to I-REACT, emergency responses will be more coordinated, costs will be reduced and citizens will be actively involved.

The future of natural disasters management starts in Turin: I-REACT, a 6.5 m€ project funded by the European Commission aimed at creating a real time prevention and management system for natural disasters, has just started. The Istituto Superiore Mario Boella from Turin is the coordinator of a project that brings together 20 European partners, including research centres, IGOs (e.g., UNESCO), public entities and SMEs that will support the commercial exploitation of the project.

By 2018 I-REACT (Improving Resilience to Emergencies through Advanced Cyber Technologies) will implement a platform that, thanks to advanced technologies, will be able to gather and analyse various data sources to generate real-time information on floods, fires, earthquakes and other natural hazards. The interoperability with Copernicus Emergency Management Service (EMS), the liaison with UNESCO and with the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) of the United Nations will further enhance the expected outputs.

I-REACT is built on the outcomes of the FLOODIS project, which ended in 2015 and was focused on implementing a crowdsourcing approach to support the emergency response in case floods. FLOODIS implemented a smartphone application to collect real-time reports from both citizens and civil protection agents, and to provide short and long-term projections of the flood extent for supporting in-field emergency rescue units. I-REACT exploits the same approach, multiplying the opportunities: on top of photos taken from smartphones, IREACT will exploit also social media, capturing messages and images from Instagram and Twitter, it will collect satellite images as well as reports from wearable technologies (bands, smart glasses) worn by on-site operators.

By means of a BigData architecture built into the Microsoft Azure cloud platform, I-REACT will gather all the aforementioned information and will provide accurate and near-real time forecasts of emergency events. Citizens will be actively engaged through gamification techniques aimed at maximizing their inputs, i.e., data and pictures taken from their smartphones. Gamification is the application of gaming concepts in non-gaming context, and it has been proven effective in engaging users and keeping them active.

I-REACT is a European project funded within the Horizon 2020 Program. Italy plays a pivotal role in the project. In fact, apart from its coordinator Istituto Superiore Mario Boella of Turin (a leading Information technology and Telecommunications research centre), the Politecnico di Torino, the Fondazione Bruno Kessler, Celi, JoinPad and CSI Piemonte are all part of the consortium. The team also encompasses various European partners that will support to design and implement I-REACT in order to facilitate its market uptake and its long term sustainability: Geoville, Eoxplore, Terranea, Alpha Consult, UNESCO, Finnish Meteorological Institute, Meteosim, Bitgear, Ansur, Technical University of Vienna, Scienseed, Aquobex, Answare, and JRC (the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission).