Mobile information technology for Hastily Formed Networks

The term hastily formed networks (Denning, 2006) has created a lot of activities in the disaster and crisis response community in coming up with solutions that could support such networks.

Perhaps one of the most interesting initiatives is Twiddlenet or TwiddNet. Professor Guruminder Singh , Director for the Center for Mobile Devices and Communications at the Naval Post Graduate School, gave a talk (over skype) on his ongoing work. His paper presentation with the title: ”Twiddnet: Smartphones as Personal Content servers for First Responders” gave some interesting insights in how future crisis response works organized in Hastily Formed Networks could capture and distribute content using new innovative approaches. The key argument for the TwiddNet is the fact that nowadays, premium cellphones have significant processing, memory as well as communication capacity. In the next few years, low-cost cellphones will also include similar capacity. When this happens, new solutions based on personal mobile web servers will provide completely new ways in how user generated content could be shared and distributed.

The TwiddNet shows how such implementation could look like. A short search on the web shows that TwiddNet origins from a master´s thesis work done by Christopher T. Clotfelter; Jonathon E. Towle; NAVAL POSTGRADUATE SCHOOL MONTEREY CA.

In the paper by Guruminder, few insights are shared about how the end-user’s experience the use of TwiddNet. Moreover, it is not perfectly clear how the TwiddNet-applications could be distributed across a Hastily Formed Network. This issue is of outmost importance due to the fact that we cannot require all actors to have the application installed prior to the disaster event. Too many actors will then not have access or even be aware of the existence of the application.

Closfelter and Towle´s thesis can be downloaded from :

Twiddlenet: Metadata Tagging and Data Dissemination in Mobile Device Networks
Authors: Christopher T. Clotfelter; Jonathon E. Towle; NAVAL POSTGRADUATE SCHOOL MONTEREY CA

Abstract: Current mobile devices are much more than the limited modality communication tools or digital assistants they were only a few years ago; instead they offer a range of content capture capabilities, including high resolution photos, videos and sound recordings. Their communication modalities and processing power have also evolved significantly. Modern mobile devices are very capable platforms, many surpassing their desktop cousins only a few years removed. TwiddleNet is a distributed architecture of personal servers that harnesses the power of these mobile devices, enabling real time information dissemination and file sharing of multiple data types from commercial-off-the-shelf platforms. This thesis focuses on two specific issues of the TwiddleNet design; metadata tagging and data dissemination. Through a combination of automatically generated and user input metadata tag values, TwiddleNet users can locate files across participating devices. Metaphor appropriate custom tags can be added as needed to insure efficient, rich and successful file searches. Intelligent data dissemination algorithms provide context sensitive governance to the file transfer scheme. Smart dissemination reconciles device and operational states with the amount of requested data and content to send, enabling providers to meet their most pressing needs, whether that is continuing to generate content or servicing requests.

Other HFN resources:

Hastily Formed Networks Center website

Hastily Formed Networks for Complex Humanitarian Disasters After Action Report and Lessons Learned from the Naval Postgraduate School’s Response to Hurricane Katrina

Directly from CHI2008 in Italy: Collaboration Oriented Evacuation System

In a poster session at CHI2008, Lucy T Gunawan & Augustinus HJ Oomes from Delft Univ presented a concept for a Collaboration Oriented Evacuation System. Lucy and I met during the ISCRAM Summer School 2006.

A short paper from the CHI PhD-colloquium about this concept can be found at ACM (Link)

I got this picture from my friend and colleague Johan Lundin, Göteborg University, on location at CHI2008.

Temporal contact information in crisis response work

Have you ever had the chance to look into formal documentation made by emergency or crisis responders at on-scene-command or in command centres? Have you payed attention to the amount of temporary and temporal contact information that they need to handle? Such temporal contact information is typically names of people and their associated mobile phone numbers. The importance of these temporal contact information should not be underestimated for the ability of organizing response work. However, the temporal contact information is often difficult to distributed across the response network, and contact information is typically gathered at different geographical locations. In a project by the Public Safety Research Group, we address this phenomena and will in the next few weeks conduct field experiments with incident commanders and command centre staff to further explore how to support the management of temporal contact information. Stay put and we will tell you more just before the summer.

GoogleMap – Android testlink

A student group that I am supervising at the IT-university in Göteborg is experimenting with GoogleMap in order to provide information sharing mechanisms in crisis response work, using the Android platform.