Small scale field-experiment for improved situation reporting

Today, I had the opportunity to study a small yet powerful field experiment at the County Administrative Board of Västra Götaland. The county administrative board has a geographical responsibility for crisis preparedness and crisis response at the regional level. The field experiment took place at the county administrative board’s newly designed situation room facilities.

At the field experiment, the TiB-organization (the duty officers) tested new ways of conducting multi-actor situation reporting conferences. In a series of small scale, yet cleverly designed, sessions, the duty officer invited three different fire & rescue services, the police, the paramedic organization, the national 112-organization, the traffic authority and the Swedish meteorological and hydrological institute to participate in a multi-actor situation conference.
Until now, such conferences have mainly been done in the form of a multi-actor teleconference, where verbal reports are the mechanism for sharing information. But today, the multi-actor conference was mediated using collaborative tools, opening up for a richer set of mechanisms for information sharing.

The field experiment provided several insights regarding the delicate balance of striving for improved communication capabilities while at the same time keeping a strong attention to avoid the addition of unwanted side-effects. The session today also showed how a cleverly designed field experiment can be accomplished without creating a hyped expectation bubble that most experiments rarely are able to fulfill. The county administrative board presented great skills in running a field experiment that was nicely embedded into the ongoing discussions on how to further improve multi-actor situation reporting.

Many thanks to Marcus Green, Charlotta Källerfeldt, Maria Göransson for arranging the event, and also many thanks to Malin Lintzen, Per Marklund, and Per-olof Hårsmar (SMHI) for the experimental design.


Live-Video Experiment using Multiple Non-Synchronized Mobile Live-Video Streams

Live-Video Experiment using Multiple Non-Synchronized Mobile Live-Video Streams

Today, we conducted a simple yet fascinating experiment at the Crisis Response Lab, focused on using multiple streams of mobile live video to support a collaborative task. We used the LiveResponse mobile live-video application and two video streams from Bambuser equipped android phones to create a live-video collaborative work space.

The two mobile live-video streams were broadcasted to LiveResponse with a latency on roughly 1 second. The two video streams were not internally synchronized which in our experiment had the effect that one video stream faced the risk of providing lag in relation to the other stream. I took my Android phone (broadcasting video) and my laptop (consuming video) and walked through our lab and used the broadcasted video to communicate to as well as using my laptop to receive communication from colleague Fredrik ( that had a similar setup with his phone and laptop.) We gave each other simple tasks in order to evaluate if the communication between us would break down.

Our communication during the short experiment did however not breakdown, but rather showed how mobile live-video broadcasting worked very well to establish and use a mobile live-video collaborative work space. This simple experiment gave us inspiration and confidence to further explore the design space of collaborative work spaces based on low cost high quality mobile live video broadcasting technology.

LiveResponse: Mobile Video Broadcasting for Emergency Response Work

After a few months of workshops and design interations, it is finally time for the field-based use of the LiveResponse prototype with the Roadsmart application. Since september 2008, a small project team together with users and representatives at the Gothenburg Fire and Rescue Services, the Paramedics (OLA-Unit) at Sahlgrenska University Hospital, and the Swedish Road Authorities has been working intensily to form a practical and highly functional prototype based on mobile video broadcasting capabilities. The project has collaborated with personnel at Bambuser to re-package core services from Bambuser into an application for emergency responders. Likewise, the project has also worked closely with technical expertise at the Road Authority to embed live video feeds from the traffic web-camera system in the Gothenburg region.

Since a few weeks, preparations has been made to finally use the LiveResponse Prototype in real work. The LiveResponse prototype will be used for two months at the fire and rescue services command centre, by the incident commanders, by paramedic teams (OLA-Unit), and at the regional traffic management centre.

LiveResponse consist of an webbased application providing live video feeds from traffic cameras as well as from mobilephone cameras. By using stationary and mobile cameras, the end-users will be able to access and share live video streams in order to reach an improved situational awareness in emergency response work. During the evaluation/field phase, the accidents in focus will be traffic accidents.

An improved version of LiveResponse will be shown in the demo session at ISCRAM 2009 Conference in Gothenburg. For additional uppdates on the ISCRAM 2009 Conference please see

Public Safety Research Group meets Bambuser

Today, Me and my colleague Fredrik Bergstrand in the Public Safety Research Group at Viktoria Institute had a very exciting meeting with Måns Adler, founder of Bambuser, about a new research project on using live video streaming to improve emergency response work. This new project started 1st of September and is a collaboration between Viktoria Institute, the Road Traffic Safety Institute – SAFER, Lindholmen Science Park´s Security Arena, the Swedish Road Authority, the Rescue Services in Gothenburg and the Regional Paramedic Services.

The project seeks to explore how live video data from mobile and stationary cameras could be used in order to provide improved situational awareness and collaboration among the response actors involved in traffic accidents response work.

In this project, Bambuser will provide the live mobile video broadcasting capabilities necessary to provide on-location live video that will be broadcasted across the response actor network. Having Bambuser as a key technology and service provider is fundamental for the practical field experiments that will be conducted with the end-user organizations later this autumn.

The meeting today was refreshingly open without any non-disclosure agreements and traditional secrecy, which means that any organization that is willing to contribute or learn from this project is welcome to join us on this initiative.

Public Safety in Public Events

On Monday, I had a half day meeting with a group of researchers from University of Aarhus in Denmark. They presented a study on interactive collaborative systems for improved situation awareness and coordination in public events. As part of the EU-project Palcoom, they designed an impressive system that helped public safety actors (police, fire services, paramedics) to coordinate and control emergeing situations during the Tallships Race 2007, at a stop-over in the Aarhus harbour.They used interactive wall displays with digital representations of the event area, mobile phones for positioning of personnell as well as video streaming and photo sharing to the command centre. Preben Mogensen (Aarhus univ), Margit Kristensen (Aarhus univ), Michael Christensen (Aarhus univ) and Boris Magnusson (Lund Univ). Their study showed how the use of wall-size displays togehter with mobile devices as data feeders could provide a common operating picture for the response actors.

At the meeting, myself and Urban Nulden (IT-univ, Göteborg University) presented the public safety research done in collaboration between the Viktoria Institute and the IT-university at the Göteborg University.

Personal Mobile Broadcasting in Emergency and Crisis Response

Personal mobile broadcasting is now about to really take off. It has been sometime since Justin.TV made big headlines in media as one of the first individuals that had personal mobile broadcasting capabilities. Now everyone can become their own broadcaster.
A few months ago I came across Pocketcaster from ComVu (Now LiveCast). The easiness of setting up the broadcasting service was impressive. Since then I have worked on the design of a research study where the focus is to explore how personal mobile broadcasting could be used in an emergency response and crisis response work setting. Just the other day, some students mentioned Bambuser. Tonight, I signed up on Bambuser and within a minute I was up and running with the extremely straightforward broadcasting service.

The use of such mobile broadcasting services has clear value in a range of personal and professional settings. From my perspective as a researcher in the domain of IT-design for emergency and crisis response, personal mobile broadcasting could have significant impact on future time-critical collaborative work. My initial field experiments using livecast has shown that power-consumption on the mobile phone is significant when broadcasting, but the most important obstacles in making broadcasting technology as success story is not in the technology but in organizational and work practice issues. From a first responder perspective, police, fire and rescue and paramedics, they all rely on very different legal grounds. Legal aspects are very different for the various response organizations, which also has a direct impact on the potential use of personal mobile broadcasting technologies. Apart from first responders, personal mobile broadcasting could also become a key technology in regional as well as national crisis response work. A key concept these days are “common operating picture” that from an technical perspective promise that all relevant data can be provided in a unified way using geographical maps as the background material. When the COP-people understands how well personal mobile broadcasting works already today, they will become thrilled on the range of possibilities that opens up.

A small suggestion is to start small here and pay close attention on critical aspects for such technology from an organizational, legal, and work practice perspective. There are at least a few people around that have deep insights in both the use of mobile technology and the work practice of emergency response that might be able to provide advice. 😉

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.

Field experiment to investigate information technology in operative work

This week, we conducted a field experiment or field exercise with a fire crew at a fire and rescue services in the southern Sweden. The exercise aimed to further explore design implications for successful IT-use in fire crews operative emergency response work. The exercise was run as a cooperation between the Public Safety Research Group at the Viktoria Institute, the local fire services and a large industrial production plant.
A networked prototype was use to mediate incident and location specific information, UMTS/3G-connectivity was provided to two tabletpcs via mobilephones and bluetooth. The fire crew were equipped with one tabletpc for the crew commander having the role as incident commander. The other tabletpc was used by the search & rescue team, part of the fire crew. The exercise was documented using two teams with two persons in each team. The two teams videorecorded and made observations of the use of the prototype. A third person recorded the radio traffic. My role was to coordinate the documentation activities and making sure that the exercise was runnign smoothly.
The exercise was successful and we collected valuable data that we will analyze in detail during the nex few months. After the exercise was a shorter reflection and feedback session held, resulting in additional valuable feedback from the fire crew.
The results will be used to further develop our understanding in the challanges in designing information technology that complies to the incident command structure (ICS) as well as improves the situated emergency response work of the fire crew.
It is not too bold to say that fieldexperiments or exercises where new technology is introduced and studied provides excellent opportunities for designers and researchers.

Temporal aspects in fire crew’s information technology use

There are many challanges in designing information technology use for first responders. One of the primary issues is to understand what type of information to mediate and how much information is possible to consume during the initial response work.
Perhaps the most fundamental question is to uncover in what ways the first responder can improve their work by the use of information technology. What qualities are in focus? Should the focus be on providing descriptive information about the accident and the accident location? Or should the focus be on connecting the various first responder so that they can share what ever digital material produced as part of the response work.
In an ongoing project we are trying to find a balance between all of this. We focus on the benefit of tehcnology, we aim to mediate some basic descriptive information and we are providing basic capabilities in order to make it possible to share information during the response effort.
We have specifically paid attention to temporal aspects of technology use and how the temporal aspects of the emergency response work affects the use and how this could inform the design of such technology.

Pictures from the evaluation work. (Jonas Landgren Copyright (c) 2006)
In field tests, we evaluate how, in this case, a fire crew make use of mobile information technology durng the transportation to an accident site and on the accident site.