Editor’s note: This article was authored by Gal Ashour, manager of video and GIS analytics at IBM Research – Haifa.
been all over the news lately, with futuristic promises to do everything from
chasing criminals to delivering packages. The reality is that drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles,
are already commonly used in complex systems. This includes systems that rely
on obtaining large amounts of video information in real time, such as those
used for managing large-scale emergencies, as well as ones used for improving
farming techniques and traffic control.
My team at IBM Research – Haifa developed a framework for
command and control (C2) applications that use mobile video feeds. We
call it CARMEL, short for IBM Context-Aware Rich-Media Extensible middLeware.
These drones carry mobile sensors that can film large areas,
providing good video coverage at a low cost. They come in all shapes and sizes, and have even made their way to the consumer market in the form of quad-copters. In disasters such as floods or fires,
when road travel may not be an option, video from drones may be the only view
we can get. Our aim is to help the people who need to interpret these types of
Reducing information overload
As is often the case with new technology, these video sensors
can create as many problems as they are attempting to solve. They provide such
huge sets of data so quickly that sorting through them in time for practical
use is difficult. And because the sensors are in motion as they photograph,
figuring out when or where events took place can be nearly impossible.
CARMEL works by pairing video segments with the location
information provided by metadata from the sensors’ geographic information
system (GIS), annotating the videos with date and time information. Users can
watch videos streamed in real time, understand what they are seeing, and then
make decisions based on accurate, up-to-date information.
The software uses IBM middleware such as Websphere, MQ, and Informix. It is not
integrated directly with drones. But once the feeds from the drone are received
at the ground-station network in industry standard format, CARMEL can detect
these feeds (scanning the relevant IP/Port ranges) and ingest the data along
with geographical metadata into the system.
Today, emergency officials can get video feeds of the aftermath
of a flood. Watching from a command center, away from the disaster, the videos come
in faster than they can watch them, let alone analyze what they are looking at.
Imagine that the officials see video of people stranded on their rooftops, yet
they are not sure exactly where the houses are, or where rescue crew members
are, or even if the roads between them are passable.
Using CARMEL, rescue teams in this situation can search for
people who need help while simultaneously watching aerial video feeds and
projecting their coordinates to their managers. The command center can then
locate those in need and view their immediate surroundings to quickly and
safely direct their rescue forces there.
can also be configured to focus on a specific area, reducing information
overload and potential distractions. The technology also provides
instant-replay and collaboration capabilities while video continues to be
captured. This allows CARMEL users to collaborate by sharing annotations on the
viewed video in real-time In the case of disaster recovery, emergency managers
can divide a region among rescue workers. These features work together to help
streamline planning, evaluating, and acting — crucial in situations in which
every minute counts.
Labels: CARMEL, command and control, emergency services, Gal Ashour, GIS, IBM Research - Haifa, managing video feeds, video analytics