All different branches of engineering frequently employs new Information and Communication technologies to solve problems related to measurement taking, signals and data processing, simulation and inspection. Particularly, the Technological Innovation Section involves projects dealing with the application of new electronic and information technologies to the various sectors of the Civil Protection, and it is composed of highly qualified scientists in the fields of the electronics and signal processing, based at the University of Pavia and collaborating with the Eucentre.
The activities and tasks of the group deal with the development of new sensors and measuring systems, the integration of systems for the acquisition of signals and spatial data, the design and development of control systems.
Particularly, in the last few years, the group has been focusing on new methodologies aimed at monitoring the rescuers in emergency scenarios (see the Figures): the use of wearable sensors – integrated within the operators’ equipment – and of data fusion techniques and classification algorithms have been investigated. These systems allow monitoring the physiological, environmental and activity-related parameters of the operators in order to automatically launch warning and alarm about their health status or the presence of danger in the surrounding environment (i.e. high toxic gas concentration, heat flux, etc).
The Technological Innovation Section is also interested on the environmental and structural monitoring systems based on independent electronic devices: the usage of autonomous monitoring systems is quite novel and mainly derived from the technological advances on the manufacturing of sensors and instrumentations, devoted to the processing and communication of the signals; clearly the possibility of a continuous environmental or structural monitoring shows incredible advantages compared with punctual measurements performed by a single inspection of the human operator. The realization of these monitoring systems involves diverse matters, from the development and integration of specific sensors to the realization and optimization of the communication infrastructures between sensors: at present most of the monitoring systems are made of wired sensor nets joined by cables assuring both the electrical supply and communication services; obviously such configurations determine the net costs as well as the numbers and positioning of sensors, especially in case of monitoring wide environment or big structures; since wireless sensor networks may overcome these constraints, the Technological Innovation Section is interested in the development of a sensorial architecture for the environmental and structural monitoring based on an arbitrary number of nodes (namely the development of devices for the acquisition, processing, saving and communication of data from one to more sensors); each node will be independent from a power supply viewpoint and it will be also wireless communicating with all other nodes of the net. From an hardware viewpoint, the Section wants to define the number and technical specifications of the sensors and of the data management systems for each node. In terms of the software, local processing units will be included in each node, in order to contain the transmission data rate by communicating the only relevant information. In summary the monitoring infrastructure will be made of an arbitrary number of nodes with a master node (collecting all the information) and a remote software interface for the visualization, real-time monitoring and processing of the data, as well as for their saving and off-line processing.
In the recent years, the Technological Innovation Group have been actively working on the project ProeTEX (Protection e-Textile for Emergency Disaster Wear), financed by the European Community. The purpose of this project was the development of “smart” garments and wearable devices, intended for professional operators facing natural or industrial emergencies, like fire, post-earthquake rescue, flooding or toxic gases pollutions, etc.
The Technological Innovation group was involved in different activities within the project. Firstly it had a part in the definition and continuous update of the technological specifications of sensors and devices to be integrated within the prototypes. This activity was performed in close contact with the other end-users, who were involved in the field trial sessions of the prototypes that were developed by the academic and industrial partners.
Moreover, the group – together with the Telecommunication section – was involved in the design and development of a long range transmission infrastructure, needed in order to transmit the data detected by the sensors to the remote monitoring centre.
Moreover the Technological Innovation Group was developing a set of novel algorithms – based on the real-time data analysis and on sensor fusion techniques – for the activity recognition and health status classification of the emergency operators while dressing these garments. During the year 2012 two new European projects were presented in the framework of FP7 research programme, respectively CBRN2 and EGUARD. Unfortunately, although both projects obtained good scores and passed the thresholds for being selected, they were not funded by the European Commission.