Mobile Computing and Active Services Support for Disaster Rescue

Rescue Wings: Mobile Computing and Active
Services Support for Disaster Rescue

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Abstract—During disaster events, timely and targeted information provision and exchange could provide great help to the stricken population in difficult and complicated environments. This paper reports a serviceoriented system, called Rescue Wings, for providing emergency support to sufferers and rescuers in disasters. The system utilizes mobile services to acquire real-time information about the users and environment, and constructs service agents (servants) to provide active services for mobile users. To perform their functions, the servants frequently invoke a set of intelligent services of Rescue Wings, which can further access a number of public services from government and other public organizations. We identify the most frequent request sequence patterns (FRSP) of Rescue Wings, and develop a new bio-inspired algorithm for efficiently scheduling the requests to minimize the response delay. The system has been tested in several disaster rescue drills, and has been successfully applied to the 2013 Ya’an Earthquake in Southeast China.
Index Terms—Service oriented architecture (SOA), disaster rescue, mobile services, active services, service request scheduling.

WE are now facing increasing threats from natural and man-made disasters. In order to effectively plan and implement disaster rescue operations, first responders have to obtain as much detailed information as possible about population dynamics, paying specialattention to special groups such as children, the elderly, and the disabled. It is also expected that disaster and evacuation information should be transmitted to the affected population in a timely and accurate manner, which can have an enormous effect in saving lives and reducing damage. While the importance of customized and intelligent services for assisting the population in emergencies has always been recognized [1]–[4], challenges surrounding the design, deployment, management and integration of such a system have prevented its emergence and/or wide applications.
In the last three years, we have been working on the construction of a service-oriented system for providing emergency support to both responders and the stricken population in disaster rescue operations. The project, named Rescue Wings, is conducted mainly upon a combination of two emerging paradigms: mobile computing and cloud computing. On the one hand, the portability and ease of information storage and dissemination has enabled mobile devices to become one of the most viable means of communication with the population [5], and recent trends in mobile computing have motivated interest in accessing web services from mobile devices in order to extend their functionality and gain access to remote data [6]. On the other hand, cloud computing technologies enable configuring, scheduling, and coordination of shared resources via virtualization, and thus greatly facilitate communication between a broad range of public and private entities [7].
Rescue Wings deploys its client-side applications to mobile devices of end users, who can upload and maintain their profiles on the servers. When entering into the emergency mode, a service agent (servant), whose behaviors are defined by active service programs [8], [9], is instantiated for each Rescue Wings client (of a sufferer or a rescuer). The servants are responsible for actively collecting real-time information and monitoring the states of the clients on the spot, and providing required services to assist the users in self protection, escape, search and rescue (S&R), as well as mutual rescue. When detecting abnormal states, the servants can also remotely request ad hoc operations of the clients.
Rescue Wings has access to a number of public services for obtaining rescue information, and provides a set of intelligent services for supporting the responders in different stages of the rescue operation. Here the purpose of the paper is threefold:
1) To present the architectural structure and working mechanism of Rescue Wings, which can provide guidance and assistance for the construction of similar service-based systems.
2) To propose an efficient heuristic algorithm for service request scheduling, which is crucial to the success of the system and can be useful for many other service scheduling problems.
3) To present simulation results and real-world applications of the system, the lessons learned from which can benefit both the system developers and the disaster managers.
For illustration, we first present a simple case study of a servant’s activities in assisting its client in a fire evacuation. By default, the option of location based services (LBS) is enabled on the client device. The servant continually gets the user location from LBS (every 15 seconds by default) and traces his/her movement path.
Ideally, if the path moves towards an exit and the movement speed does not decrease too much, no action is needed; However, at a time the servant observes that the direction of the path changes towards a dangerous area. In response, the servant immediately sends an alert to the client, meanwhile loads the surrounding map of the client, marks the dangerous area together with the user location, and recommends an escape route to the user. The procedure continues until the user returns back to the right route, or the user manually stops receiving information. During the process the servant also invokes functions of other components including the State analyzer and the Router on the Rescue Wings server(s), which can further access external web services through the Internet. Finally the user successfully escapes, and the servant process terminates after observing this or receiving a confirmation messages. Fig. 1 presents the activity sequence diagram of the case study. Since the middle of 2012, we have participated in several rescue drills and tested the effect of RescueWings in rescue support. The first real-world application of Rescue Wings was the 2013 Ya’an Earthquake in Sichuan province, China. During the rescue operation, there were more than four hundred mobile devices connected to the Rescue Wings servers, around 32,000 service requests had been processed, and at least 58,000 messages had been produced, transmitted, and utilized for assisting the stricken people and supporting the responders. According to on-the-spot investigation and post hoc analysis, the services provided by RescueWings contributed effectively to the performance and success of the operation. Until now, the client-side applications of Rescue Wings have been deployed to more than 18,000 end users. The remainder of the paper is structured as follows: Section 2 discusses related work. Section 3 presents the framework of Rescue Wings and introduces the functionalities of Rescue Wings clients, servants, and rescue support services. Section 4 proposes an efficient bio-inspired algorithm for scheduling the requests to services of Rescue Wings. Section 5 introduces the experiments of Rescue Wings in two drills, Section 6 describes the application of the Ya’an Earthquake rescue operation, and Section 7 concludes.