For improving personnel safety in the working environment in standard and/or emergency operating conditions, several technologies have been introduced in the last few years. Some ofthe proposed solutions combine and integrate existing technologies by using them into different application domains to enhance the synergy of interaction between operators and the technology itself.
This approach is adopted in the RISING project, which addresses workers’ safety and situational awareness using Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID) devices. RFID is a low-cost, new emerging technology that uses communication via radio waves to identify and track objects. An active receiver (the reader) sends an RF signal to a transponder (the tag) which backscatters a message.
The RISING project aims to exploit RFID technology to improve the safety into the working environment, with a specific focus on emergency scenarios. Preinstalled into the environment, RFID tags can be used to store useful information that emergency operators equipped with RFID readers can easily retrieve automatically. Typical information stored into RFID tag scan include: location info about the tag (latitude, longitude, altitude, floor, etc.), the position of possible resources (e.g., emergency exits), potential risks and/or hazardous materials (e.g., biological hazard, toxic or flammable gases) in the surroundings. In emergency scenarios, first responders can use such information to be early warned about hazards, to select evacuation paths, to endorse navigation to useful resources (plant equipment or machinery to shutdown/open, emergency exits) and to support their localization in indoor and deep indoor environments. In emergencies, localization and planning information are crucial for personnel safety. In this context, RFID system can be used in combination with inertial navigation as viable solution for supporting hybrid Indoor Positioning Systems (IPSs). To this end, in the RISING framework emergency responders are supposed to be equipped with RFID readers (for retrieving info about surroundings and their position) Inertial Measurements Units (IMUs, for indoor localization) and smart devices (i.e., tablets, smartphones) for displaying useful data in real time (their absolute position, available resources and point of interests in the environment, etc.).
The project will investigate the feasibility of using RFID technology to improve the activities of first responders during emergency missions in indoor/deep indoor environments. Pre-installed RFID devices embedded in emergency lights will be used for providing crucial information to first aid staff (such as, the actual presence of hazardous materials and resources or in support of personnel localization and navigation system). A clear awareness about the position of specific resources (e.g. pipelines with flammable gas, fire hoses, etc.) can considerably reduce and prevent dangerous situations for personnel, such as exposition to toxic materials or specific plants. In addition, an IPS supporting first responders can really increase the efficiency of rescue missions by reducing their operating time: when emergency commander and rescuers know their exact positions in the environment, the mission’s planning and management results surely more effective. In order to guarantee the constant alignment between information stored in RFID tags and the actual environment status, specific studies about the use of the RISING solution for building/facilities maintenance will be also performed.
Keywords: situational awareness
The RISING framework is a flexible and scalable cutting-edge solution that allow increasing workers safety, both in emergencies and normal operating conditions, with a minimum investment. The RISING solution can bring benefits in several application fields, as illustrated in the following.
Technology. From a technological point of view, the RISING framework represents an innovative and scalable solution for IPSs in both emergency management and maintenance fields. The hybrid IPS combining inertial sensors and RFID (PTs, SPATs) beacons represents a turning-point system able to track user’s position without any restriction and overcoming limitations of current approaches that usually use inertial sensors and local beacons separately. Thus, operators using smart device can be constantly informed about their current positions and/or the position of local resources/hazmats.
User safety. The possibility to display on smart devices pseudo maps about the environment and/or info on the position of peculiar resources/hazmats contribute to increase the sense of awareness of first aid staff in emergencies, as well as contribute to support the activity of specialists during maintenance operations. The constant updating of data stored into the database/tags, according to procedures defined in WP7, will also contribute to improve the
overall workers safety.
Economic. Based on the use of inertial sensors, RFID tags and smart devices (tablets, smartphones), the RISING tool is an economic solution that does not require any specific and/or dedicated infrastructures or facilities, which could be expensive to buy, install and maintain. Inertial sensors and smart devices are economic, widely available and are usually already part of the current workers’ equipment. At the same time, PTs and SPATs are inexpensive, easy to find and to use. Being embedded into emergency lights, tags do not required any specific procedure for installation and power supplying.
Flexibility. The RISING framework do not require any specific prior knowledge or practice. It can be used also by personnel with no experience with RFID technologies.
The RISING project will last 12 months. The overall activities will be arranged into Work Packages (WP), as described in the following.
WP1 [TECNUN] (M1-M4): definition of the scenario. Identification of the information to be stored in the RFID tags; definition of the information codification. The stored data usually include: tags physical coordinates (for personnel and objects localization), localization of possible resources (such as emergency exits), POIs, hazmats and/or service plants in the surroundings of the tag itself, local/general pseudo map of the environment (in case of SPATs).
WP2 [TECNUN] (M2 – M6): design and implementation of a database to collect all the information identified in WP1 within their codification. The database will include all the information related to the RFID tags and their deployment (geographical location) on the real scenario. The prototype of the database will be implemented using MySQL open source software.
WP3 [UNIROMA3] (M1 – M6): implementation of the hybrid IPS using an IMU that assembles off-the-shelf sensors with customised electronics. Design and implementation of a SW interface to support communication between IMU and smart devices (i.e., tablet, smartphone).
WP4 [UCBM] (M1 – M6): development and implementation of a software to write/read information from RFID tags using codified data stored in the database defined in WP2. Development and implementation of the communication interface between the RFID reader and smart devices.
WP5 [UNIROMA3 & UCBM] (M2 – M9): design and implementation of a localization algorithm able to perform data fusion from IMU and RFID tags, in order to estimate user’s position using a PDR algorithm.
WP6 [UCBM] (M2 – M9): design and implementation of a user-interface on the smart device able to provide a pseudo map to emergency operators’ with information about their current position, local resources, hazmats, etc.
WP7 [TECNUN] (M6 – M10): design of maintenance policies and update procedures needed to guarantee an adequate level of confidence on the information stored into RFID tags. Reliability of the RISING system depends on the accuracy of the stored information and the proper performance of the implemented equipment.
WP8 [UCBM, with the support of all partners] (M7 – M12): validation of the feasibility of the RISING solution through a pilot test in a real user case scenario.
Roberto Setola (Complex Systems & Security Lab, Università Campus Bio-Medico di Roma, Italy) — project coordinator
Information last updated on 2017-08-30.
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