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Proposed NIST Distributed Testbed for First Responders.

Over the past several months, NIST has been working on novel communications and networking technologies for first responders at disaster sites. The goal of the NIST Distributed Testbed for First Responders is to save lives during natural or man-made emergencies by equipping first responders with highly capable systems and gear, based on the latest technological advances. Research in the Advanced Network Technologies Division has contributed to the NIST Distributed Testbed for First Responders in the following ways:

* NIST researchers built a wireless ad hoc network (WANET) consisting of Compaq iPAQ Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) running on the Linux operating system and equipped with IEEE 802.11b wireless local area network (WLAN) cards. The network demonstrates how first responders could communicate with each other and with those outside of their WANET at an emergency site. Requiring no prior infrastructure, the network self-organizes once the first responders converge on a disaster site. It reorganizes automatically every time a node leaves the network (perhaps due to destruction or to the physical departure of the person carrying the associated radio/handheld terminal). As such, the network is resilient to node and link failures, and its performance degrades gracefully in the face of such events.

The network uses multihop communications to carry all sorts of traffic, such as full-duplex voice, video, text, and sensor data. Any message to be transmitted from node A to node B may go through several intermediary nodes. This helps conserve the battery power at each node, reducing interference for other communications taking place throughout the network and increasing the traffic-carrying capacity of the network. ITL's use of the IEEE 802.11b technology in the testbed is for proof-of-concept purposes. Future standards for first responder communications and networking will be based on other varieties of wireless technology.

* NIST developed a method by which the WANET could determine the locations of all assets of interest, such as the first responders themselves and any civilians trapped at the disaster site, at any given time. While the Global Positioning System (GPS) provides that functionality in an outdoor environment where one has line-of-sight (LOS) communication with GPS satellites, other solutions are needed for the much harder indoor localization problem. ITL's system relies on a number of stationary IEEE 802.11b WLAN nodes with known locations to determine the locations of the mobile nodes. This allows tracking and knowledge of the location of first responders during an emergency, facilitating the management of the disaster.

* NIST researchers carried out some experimentation with smart sensor networks based on WANET concepts. This includes work on collaborative signal processing algorithms that combine data from sensors of different types (heat, smoke, chemical, etc.) to arrive at more detailed information about the disaster and its evolution than can be obtained from single sensors, such as today's smoke detectors.

These components, along with ongoing work in BFRL and MEL, will be integrated in the NIST Distributed Testbed for First Responders in the next several months. The Web site is

CONTACT: Nader Moayeri, (301)975-3767;
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Title Annotation:General Developments
Publication:Journal of Research of the National Institute of Standards and Technology
Date:May 1, 2003
Previous Article:Microwave measurement technique developed by NIST researcher adopted by commercial instrument manufacturer.
Next Article:Note to readers.

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