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Irish scientists develop system to aid emergency services’ response to disasters

Computer scientists at Trinity College Dublin have developed a new social media monitoring system to help emergency services respond to disasters.

The Slándáil Emergency Management System — Security System for language and image analysis — gathers information such as text, image and video content posted by people caught up in accidents or disasters on social media networks.

This in turn, is fed it into emergency management software used by police, firefighters, paramedics and other emergency services.

The system works in three languages — English, German, and Italian.

Slándáil was developed by a collaborative group led by researchers from the School of Computer Science and Statistics in Trinity over a period of three years, and was sponsored by the EU’s Framework Programme 7.

Project co-ordinator and professor of computer science at Trinity, Khurshid Ahmad, said that he and his team are very pleased with its success, explaining that the internet allows for the rapid dissemination information via social media.

He said that warnings about major disasters and efforts to recover from them would involve the use of textual, visual and audio information.

“The excellent work carried out by national disaster and emergency management experts and operatives relies on teams of people examining and synthesising information from vast numbers of documents on very short, sometimes evolving, time scales,” said Prof Ahmad.

“Yet monitoring the sheer volume of information propagated via social media exceeds the limits of any possible unaided human professional.

“We have produced a prototype solution that allows these teams to drown out the unhelpful ‘noise’ and instead systematically capture useful information spread via social media to assist disaster management as efficiently as possible.

“Whether they are responding to a flash flood or a dangerous man-made disturbance, the rapid provision of critical information from ‘eyes on the ground’ should help save lives.”

The system has already been tested by An Garda Síochána, the PSNI, communications experts Stillwater Communications and other agencies across Europe, including the UK, Germany and Italy.

Emergency management teams in northern Italy are using a prototype version of the social media monitor, and the objective is to carry out live tests with Irish emergency management agencies by the end of 2017.


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