A crisis situation can be triggered by any number of events – ranging from a winter storm to cyber attacks or an act of terrorism. The effects can vary dramatically, ranging from power outages to the destruction of infrastructure.
Austria is well prepared to deal with these situations. The great flood of 2013 showed that our country is home to many people who are willing and able to help in times of need. To alleviate disasters, it is paramount to set priorities and coordinate efforts by different parties. In a new study called “INTERPRETER”, which is run jointly with the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology, researchers are investigating new technologies that harmonise electronic information. The aim is to give organisations involved in disaster response a shared view of critical aspects of the incident, such as which areas need help, where the priorities lie, and who has what capacities.
A wealth of know-how and expertise perfectly suited to these types of demands can be found at Frequentis, an Austrian company that provides communication and information systems to control centres across the world tasked with security. For years, Frequentis has been recognised as the leader of innovation in the safety of civil and military flights, public security, and rail and maritime safety. Every year, Frequentis invests 12% of its revenues in research and development, demonstrating the importance of R&D to the company.
In the INTERPRETER initiative, Frequentis is working together with the AIT, which is coordinating the project, on interoperability in next-generation disaster response. The new capabilities will support organisations such as the Austrian armed forces, which is tasked with rapid assistance in cases of a catastrophe alongside its core duty of national defence.
The Austrian armed forces and regional emergency management centres rely on electronic systems to process the mountains of data involved in a crisis. INTERPRETER forges an opportunity to electronically compare data between these highly secure systems.
Currently, researchers in INTERPRETER are using state-of-the-art methods for software design to enable a fully automated exchange of data between civil and military (management) information systems. It is vital to ensure that the data is consistent and is processed in a shared, interconnected manner, so that in the event of a crisis, emergency services can build shared situational awareness, synchronize information about affected areas, and boost the effectiveness and efficiency of the response.
The modular structure of the INTERPRETER solution allows it to be extended and used sustainably. INTERPRETER also enables emergency services to involve affected people in the disaster response process, to further increase the overall efficiency of managing incidents in Austria.
Christian Flachberger, responsible for security research at Frequentis, says: “INTERPRETER represents a key milestone in the development of civil-military interoperability, and will make a significant contribution to crisis and catastrophe management in Austria. We are proud to be a partner in this project.”
Ivan Gojmerac, the Project Coordinator from AIT, continues: “INTERPRETER builds both on the AIT research activities of previous years and the INKA project, which was conducted by the Austrian Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology as part of its security research programme, KIRAS. Those earlier stages laid the groundwork for INTERPRETER by developing the interoperability interfaces between civil and military management information systems, and successfully testing them together with the Austrian organisations involved in crisis and catastrophe management.”
Andrea Nowak, Head of the Information Management Business Unit at the AIT, adds, “Modern digital communication platforms are increasingly important in managing disasters, because they enable involved parties to coordinate their responses and act effectively and rapidly. That’s why for years the AIT has managed a dedicated research team in its Digital Safety & Security Department, aimed at developing new information and communication technologies for deployment in crisis situations.”