Visible to the public RAPID: Collaborative Research: Cloud Environmental Analysis and Relief

Project Details
Lead PI:Christopher White
Performance Period:08/15/10 - 07/31/12
Institution(s):Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Sponsor(s):National Science Foundation
Sponsor Award URL:
Award Number:1047753
Abstract: This Rapid Response Research (RAPID) project is developing technology for ubiquitous event reporting and data gathering on the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and its ecological impacts. Traditional applications for monitoring disasters have relied on specialized, tightly-coupled, and expensive hardware and software platforms to capture, aggregate, and disseminate information on affected areas. We lack science and technology for rapid and dependable integration of computing and communication technology into natural and engineered physical systems, cyber-physical systems (CPS). The tragic Gulf oil spill of 2010 presents both a compelling need to fill this gap in research and a critical opportunity to help in relief efforts by deploying cutting-edge CPS research in the field. In particular, this CPS research is developing a cloud-supported mobile CPS application enabling community members to contribute as citizen scientists through sensor deployments and direct recording of events and ecological impacts of the Gulf oil spill, such as fish and bird kills. The project exploits the availability of smartphones (with sophisticated sensor packages, high-level programming APIs, and multiple network connectivity options) and cloud computing infrastructures that enable collecting and aggregating data from mobile applications. The goal is to develop a scientific basis for managing the quality-of-service (QoS), user coordination, sensor data dissemination, and validation issues that arise in mobile CPS disaster monitoring applications. The research will have many important broader impacts related to the Gulf oil spill disaster relief efforts, including providing help for the affected Gulf communities as they field and evaluate next-generation CPS research and build a sustained capability for capturing large snapshots of the ecological impact of the Gulf oil spill. The resulting environmental data will have lasting value for evaluating the consequences of the spill in multiple research fields, but especially in Marine Biology. The project is collaborating with Gulf area K-12 schools to integrate disaster and ecology monitoring activities into their curricula. The technologies developed (resource optimization techniques, data reporting protocol trade-off analysis, and empirical evaluation of social network coordination strategies for an open data environment) will provide a resource for the CPS research community. It is expected that project results will enable future efforts to create and validate CPS disaster response systems that can scale to hundreds of thousands of users and operate effectively in life-critical situations with scarce network and computing resources.