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INSIGHT: Harmless
by José Caro

With the technology sector rapidly expanding, satellite navigation technologies have the ability to, and should be integrated across, “real world” disciplines and throughout the world. In order to demonstrate the capability and importance of expanding the use of these technologies, the 6th Framework Program, co-financed by the European Commission and participating companies and organizations, instituted the HARMLESS study to advocate the use of satellite navigation systems as “the technology of the future.” Reporting to the European GNSS Supervisory Authority, GMV coordinated the study to examine the benefits of using satellite navigation systems in various emergency management applications, including everything from humanitarian aid to law enforcement.

GMV, with nine other organizations from five different European countries, hopes this model HARMLESS study will encourage the development of similar studies across the globe to extend satellite use to various everyday applications. In this article, we will demonstrate how the use of Galileo and European Global Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) satellite systems could be used in emergency management, humanitarian aid, and law enforcement.

Emergency Management
The priority emergency management applications that were studied in detail to assess the technical, market, and social benefits of satellites included:
  • General survey
  • Route guidance
  • Tracking and monitoring of dangerous cargoes
  • Team location during trials
  • Team location tracking
  • Monitoring and control
  • Increased safety
Regarding general survey, the use of satellite navigation software allows for increased capability to update the cartography and more efficiently manage each situation. These benefits in turn allow emergency management staff to more easily merge geographic information with positioning information to identify the most ideal route for the fastest response.

In addition, some of the specific technology with the satellite navigation system allows for improved applications. For example, Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) accuracy helps to track and monitor dangerous cargoes. Also, Galileo audit capabilities guarantee service and enhanced availability to increase current utility. The system also allows for coupling with applications, such as route guidance, to improve tracking team locations.

With a community of users needing an improved navigation system, this market is ideal to target. In addition to Galileo providing future improvements to further develop the effectiveness of satellite applications for team location tracking, monitoring and control, the hierarchical system is well-fitted to fulfill important emergency management objectives. This user community truly demands this type of improved technology to provide “search and rescue” and other critical disaster management functions.

Humanitarian Aid
There are numerous organizations and international agencies that share a common humanitarian aid agenda. When studying satellite navigation systems in such a crucial field, HARMLESS research analyzed the following applications:
  • Damages assessment
  • Personnel security
  • Search and rescue coordination
  • Internally displaced person(s) and refugee camp management
  • Global monitoring and tracking of aid shipments
  • Epidemiological mapping
With such a large number of humanitarian organizations involved with satellite technology already, the navigation system integrates the damage assessment criteria that were established by the United Nations (UN) Spatial Data infrastructure. The damage assessment system also serves as a precursor to sectorial needs assessments.

In addition to improving staff security and resource management and providing essential “cross cutting” applications for personnel security, the study found that the navigation system also provided considerable growth in security budgets for humanitarian aid operations in risk areas. Signal augmentation technologies helped to develop “search and rescue” coordination, and future improvements offered by Galileo systems will allow for additional enhanced coordination of these efforts.

The HARMLESS study concluded that refugee camp management also significantly improved with satellite navigation systems. The system is scalable in such a away that implementing regular use would present much cheaper and sufficient activity for smaller camps. Specifically, Galileo services guarantee a signal that significantly improves tracking and monitoring of aid shipments. Plus, when operating in dangerous areas, users may benefit from the participation of Galileo to the COSPAS SARSAT system (space system for the search for vessels in distress) for epidemiological mapping applications.

With such a strong need by non-government organizations and health authorities in this discipline, the epidemiological mapping system aided by specific satellite systems would increase effective communication and related applications within humanitarian aid.

Law Enforcement
Benefits of satellite management systems within law enforcement may not be as easy to recognize, but the HARMLESS study identified applicable priorities to include:
  • Management of patrol units
  • Police tracking and dispatch
  • Tracking of rejected asylum seekers
  • Tracking in parole and probation
  • Suspect tracking and bait activation
Most of the existing systems are limited to vehicles rather than personnel or other portable assets, allowing law enforcement patrol to use the technology easily. In addition, use of these technologies reduces costs by improving the efficiency and minimizing risk. The European GNSS will also introduce additional functions, thus enhancing the perceived value of the system for both management of patrol units and general police tracking and dispatch.

Tracking, whether rejected asylum seekers or suspects, or for parole and probation enforcement, is a very important, potential market for these technologies. The study suggests high maturity for both the GNSS receivers and software, allowing for increased tracking ability. In addition, the necessary software for suspect tracking demonstrated a high level of maturity, and Galileo acts as a significant enabler for parole and probation tracking.

There is a significant potential for the future of this application as well; for example, the combination of Galileo within the GNSS scenario should help to increase the usage of suspect tracking.

When law enforcement applied satellite navigation to bait activation, the pursuit of a luxury bait car could lead the police to a network of stolen cars. This can create significant financial and social benefits, which can be recognized from the decrease in theft rates in cities where this system is currently being used.

GMV’s HARMLESS study illustrated that there are numerous practical applications for satellite navigation technologies within the emergency management, humanitarian aid and law enforcement disciplines that addressed and improved safety concerns. Using this study as a model, the research should be repeated across other sectors internationally in order for the technologies to continue to improve navigation, “search and rescue” efforts, public regulated service, and other critical functions within the studied user communities.

With the HARMLESS research serving as a demonstration that future applications of navigation technologies in everyday fields exist, GMV urges other technological business groups to take similar steps to integrate satellite navigation as a practical “technology of the future.”

About the author
José Caro received his Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics in 1996. He joined GMV in 1998, as part of the Global Navigation Satellite System division. Since then, he has worked in satellite navigation related projects, most of them in the EGNOS program (the European SBAS), as one of the designers and developers of the facility in charge of computing the SBAS GEO corrections. He is currently the head of the GNSS Advanced Systems Division, where he manages several projects that apply GNSS to emergency management. These projects include FP6 studies (coordinator of HARMLESS, participation in MAGES) and the development of the osmógrafoTM, a proprietary system that determines the area covered by the smell sense of search and rescue dogs.