Sensors provide some of the basic input data for risk management of natural and man-made hazards. Here the word 'sensors' covers everything from remote sensing satellites, providing invaluable images of large regions, through instruments installed on the Earth's surface to instruments situated in deep boreholes and on the sea floor, providing highly-detailed point-based information from single sites. Data from such sensors is used in all stages of risk management, from hazard, vulnerability and risk assessment in the pre-event phase, information to provide on-site help during the crisis phase through to data to aid in recovery following an event. Because data from sensors play such an important part in improving understanding of the causes of risk and consequently in its mitigation, considerable investment has been made in the construction and maintenance of highly-sophisticated sensor networks. In spite of the ubiquitous need for information from sensor networks, the use of such data is hampered in many ways. Firstly, information about the presence and capabilities of sensor networks operating in a region is difficult to obtain due to a lack of easily available and usable meta-information. Secondly, once sensor networks have been identified their data it is often difficult to access due to a lack of interoperability between dissemination and acquisition systems. Thirdly, the transfer and processing of information from sensors is limited, again by incompatibilities between systems. Therefore, the current situation leads to a lack of efficiency and limited use of the available data that has an important role to play in risk mitigation. In view of this situation, the European Commission (EC) is funding a number of Integrated Projects within the Sixth Framework Programme concerned with improving the accessibility of data and services for risk management. Two of these projects: 'Open Architecture and Spatial Data Infrastructure for Risk Management' (ORCHESTRA, http://www.eu-orchestra.org/) and 'Sensors Anywhere' (SANY, http://sany-ip.eu/) are discussed in this article. These projects have developed an open distributed information technology architecture and have implemented web services for the accessing and using data emanating, for example, from sensor networks. These developments are based on existing data and service standards proposed by international organizations. The projects seek to develop the ideals of the EC directive INSPIRE (http://inspire.jrc.it), which was launched in 2001 and whose implementation began this year (2007), into the risk management domain. Thanks to the open nature of the architecture and services being developed within these projects, they can be implemented by any interested party and can be accessed by all potential users. The architecture is based around a service-oriented approach that makes use of Internet-based applications (web services) whose inputs and outputs conform to standards. The benefit of this philosophy is that it is expected to favor the emergence of an operational market for risk management services in Europe, it eliminates the need to replace or radically alter the hundreds of already operational IT systems in Europe (drastically lowering costs for users), and it allows users and stakeholders to achieve interoperability while using the system most adequate to their needs, budgets, culture etc. (i.e. it has flexibility).
- open distributed architecture
- risk management
- sensor networks
- web services