Home grown tools to support emergency services agencies

NICTA research leveraged by local ICT company

Australia's Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Research Centre of Excellence (NICTA) has teamed with the Queensland Department of Emergency Services and a Brisbane ICT company to develop tools which will help emergency services agencies obtain timely information as a crisis unfolds.

NICTA's Smart Applications for Emergencies (SAFE) project, based at NICTA's Queensland Research Laboratory, is developing applications and tools to enable the capture and presentation of vital information about emergency situations, ranging from events such as devastating floods and cyclones to incidents like car accidents and fires.

NICTA has teamed with Brisbane company Locatrix Communications in its quest to provide real-time situational awareness information for emergency rescue operations.

Queensland Department of Emergency Services, executive manager of business strategy projects, Nick Moss, said getting information about unfolding emergency situations to the right people at the right time is of critical importance for emergency services agencies.

He said it is important that personnel in local, regional and state operations and coordination centres can quickly form a picture of what is happening in the field.

"Such information provides situational awareness and can improve response time and effectiveness in emergency rescue operations and can also improve safety of the crew members," he said. Locatrix Communications is an innovator in location-based services.

Its location services can be used by mobile and distributed enterprises to manage and locate their assets and personnel. The services are also used for mobile social networking.

Locatrix Communications founder and CEO, Mark White, said working with NICTA provides insight into the research that can have an impact on the company's future direction.

One of NICTA's strategic aims is to collaborate with local technology companies to nurture the Australian ICT industry.

NICTA SAFE Networks project leader and University of Queensland ITEE professor, Jadwiga Indulska, said the market is ready for other location-based services, such as mobile social networking and location-sensitive advertising.

"But in the not too distant future we'll begin to see mobile computing applications that draw on a much wider range of information than location alone, and that will herald the age of ubiquitous, or pervasive, computing," Indulska said.

"Researchers in the field of ubiquitous computing generally refer to this wider range of data as 'context information', and it can include anything from location, to temperature readings to the level of pollution in the air."

Indulska said the development of this technology will help revolutionise how emergency services organisations can respond to events as they are unfolding.

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