Wireless Applications

HITEC to Use Arch Rock’s PhyNet Wireless Sensor Network

December 18, 2008

The IPv6-based RF component enables HITEC's Communication System for Emergency Operations, which uses satellite, Wi-Fi, and short-range radio, as well as video and voice communications and sensor networks, to support emergency and rescue operations.


SAN FRANCISCO /BUSINESS WIRE/ -- Arch Rock's PhyNet wireless sensor network (WSN) has been selected by HITEC Luxembourg S.A. for use in its Nomadic Satellite Communication System (NoSaCo), developed for natural disasters and other public safety situations. NoSaCo with PhyNet underwent a dress rehearsal in May 2008 at the ING europe-marathon Luxembourg, an annual event attended by some 4000 runners and close to 100,000 spectators.

NoSaCo, part of HITEC Luxembourg's Public Safety Suite, was designed as a rapidly deployable ad hoc, high-performance communication system for use in emergency scenarios, where existing infrastructure has been destroyed or rendered unreliable. The system uses various wireless technologies, such as satellite, Wi-Fi, and short-range radio, as well as video and voice communications and sensor networks that can monitor critical information on-site and transmit it quickly over the Internet to those in charge of rescue operations.

The NoSaCo system was already well into the definition phase when, in the fall of 2007, the development team learned about PhyNet. The PhyNet architecture appealed to the NoSaCo team because it was low power, easy to deploy, and based entirely on the ubiquitous Internet Protocol (IP)—and specifically on IPv6, the newest and most scalable version of IP. Furthermore, PhyNet was the first multi-tier WSN to address large, geographically dispersed applications by forming multiple highly resilient IP-based sensor networks that users could manage centrally as part of the overall IP infrastructure. The key to this architecture was a new kind of router that formed an internetworking backbone between an individual WSN and its server-hosted applications, allowing information to be monitored miles—or even thousands of miles—away from their control and management functions.

Setting Up an Emergency Infrastructure
"Good communication at an emergency site is essential but extremely difficult because the first responders—police, firemen, and doctors—don't know what they will need in terms of helping the victims and minimizing their own risks," said Benjamin Hourte, NoSaCo project manager for HITEC Luxembourg's Intelligent Infrastructures Solutions group. "At a major fire or highway accident, there must be a way to set up new infrastructure and quickly get vital information to a central location so the right resources can be deployed fast."

The first test of the NoSaCo system took place at the May 2008 running of the annual ING europe-marathon Luxembourg. Though the marathon didn't constitute an emergency situation per se, runners were potentially subject to health problems from sun and heat exposure, requiring a mechanism for providing remote command centers, with access to video and sensor information.

"These are not professional runners, but people who do this once a year," Hourte said. "There is risk of dehydration, heatstroke, heart attack. We want to know where there's the highest concentration of spectators, the most direct sun, with the least shade. Above 30°C [86°F], the risk factors get much higher."

The Distributed PhyNet Architecture
The PhyNet system was deployed at the four sites associated with the NoSaCo system. At three of the sites—a mobile command center and two mobile intervention teams (first-responder vehicles)—a PhyNet Router was connected, using the IETF 6LoWPAN (IPv6 Low-power wireless personal-area network) standard to communicate over IEEE 802.15.4 low-power radio links to Arch Rock sensor nodes that measured heat, humidity, and light. The WSNs at the two intervention team sites also used an Arch Rock IPserial node connected to a global positioning system (GPS) to obtain location information.

Forty kilometers away, at the headquarters of satellite hosting company SES ASTRA, sat the PhyNet Server, whose function was to collectively manage the various WSNs and display the collected data on a Web-based console for management and control. The hosting site, command center, and two intervention sites were connected using IPv6 communication over a combination of satellite and Wi-Fi links. In addition to the PhyNet WSN, the NoSaCo system provided IP-based video and voice links among the sites.

Full integration of the sensor data into the NoSaCo monitoring portal was easily accomplished using the PhyNet server's Web services capabilities.

"From the sensor information plus our knowledge of the numbers of people at various sites over time, we were able to make correlations; analyze the risk factors for dehydration, heart attacks, and other conditions; and determine where best to send the emergency workers and ambulances during the race and other post-race events," Hourte said. "The GPS sensor data then told us exactly where the mobile team was at any moment."

"Our goal was to prove NoSaCo's efficiency in a real-world, high-profile event. Arch Rock PhyNet was a key element of this operation and perfectly fit our requirements. It could be deployed in minutes by a non-network professional and without any existing communication infrastructure. Getting the sensors on the right network was as easy as pushing a button, and PhyNet worked immediately over the satellite links. This event served as an excellent model for what NoSaCo will be able to accomplish in major emergency situations."

In addition to public safety applications, HITEC Luxembourg expects NoSaCo will be used in traffic monitoring and pollution control. In the latter case, sensors will gather data on the presence of toxic substances and send it to a central monitoring system for analysis.

About HITEC
HITEC Luxembourg S.A., a 100% owned Luxembourg company, was incepted in 1986 and has developed its business activities in the field of innovative and quality products and services. The company is ISO 9001:2000 certified for engineering, analyses, consulting, manufacturing, and sale of systems in mechanics, electronics, physical measuring techniques, microprocessors, and data processing. HITEC Luxembourg offers high-technology solutions covering different business areas: satellite ground segment technology; customer-specific and standard equipment for testing and measuring of physical properties; engineering; consulting; software and ICT development; and project management.

To address the needs of public safety regarding communication in situations without having terrestrial ICT infrastructures available, HITEC Luxembourg has invented as part of the Public Safety Suite the Nomadic Communication System, or NomadicCom. NomadicCom provides easy to install communication independent from terrestrial infrastructures.

About Arch Rock
Arch Rock Corp. is a pioneer in open-standards-based wireless sensor network technology. The company's products, which gather data from the physical world and integrate it into the enterprise IT infrastructure using IP networking and Web services, are used in environmental monitoring, tracking and logistics, industrial automation, and control. Arch Rock's founders, while at the University of California-Berkeley and Intel Research, did seminal research and development work on WSNs, creating three generations of wireless sensor nodes, mesh networking protocols, and the "leading operating system for sensor networks."


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