iSAR+ Objectives

Representing the Vision of the iSAR+ Consortium, the strategic goals defined for iSAR+ are:

GOAL 1: Develop effective Guidelines to enable the new media users to contribute to crisis response efforts and search and rescue actions

A main objective of the iSAR+ Project is the production of effective guidelines for the users of new social media and mobile technology to contribute to crisis response and search and rescue activities. Considering the scope of the Project, we understand the term “users” as encompassing both PPDR personnel and citizens. We aim “effective” guidelines and, in our perspective, the required effectiveness involves a work of exploration and exploitation, a research across the multiple dimensions (organisational, human, technological and ethical/legal) that translate the integration of new online and mobile technologies into the human and organisational reality of crisis response efforts. Additionally, effectiveness derives from realistic testing activities, using a reference technological platform that reflects the multi-dimensional recommendations and findings. Part of this work also includes a guide on ‘how to reach’ those users (i.e., find the best means to contact and communicate).

GOAL 2: Recommend the most effective and efficient ways to contribute to crisis response and search and rescue actions

It is a key objective of the iSAR+ Project to research, experiment and analyse which ways are more effective and efficient to ensure the contribution of new media technology users to crisis response efforts, considering the involved technology, the human-in-the-loop, the organisational constraints and the legal and ethical references. Recommendations derived from this research work will be incorporated into the iSAR+ Prototype. Determination of effective and efficient ways to contribute to crisis response depends on many factors: for example, PPDRs have a strong preference for the emergency call service (i.e., synchronous voice service) to receive emergency-related information from citizens; however, when this emergency service becomes inoperational or has not enough capacity to cope with demands, other alternatives, more efficient and effective, ought to be considered, such as text messaging via cellular (e.g., SMS) or internet (e.g., Twitter-like) networks [1]; optionally, imagery and video should also be considered as a way to potentially enrich communication.

GOAL 3: Develop an iSAR+ Platform for experimentation and validation purposes

The iSAR+ Platform allows the conduct of a series of experiments and the validation by end-users (PPDRs and citizens) of the most efficient and effective ways to incorporate mobile technology and social media into crisis response efforts. The iSAR+ Platform will thus be fit for early deployment purposes, enabling PPDRs’ early adopters and citizens to experiment and use it. The iSAR+ Platform shall comprise existing and new ICT tools, suitably integrated to comply with the organisational, human, technological, legal and ethical recommendations, considering the European perspective. The iSAR+ Consortium strongly believes this Platform is instrumental to determine the levels of efficiency and effectiveness of the recommended ways to enable new media users to actively contribute in crisis response efforts and, ultimately, sustain realistically the produced Guidelines for PPDRs and citizens.

GOAL 4: Conduct research covering a systemic approach to the production of guidelines

Albeit technological development has been a strong enabler of social media and mobile technology over the last years, its proper adoption and acceptance requires also tackling dimensions other than the technological one. The iSAR+ Consortium considers essential to address and integrate the organisational, human and ethical/legal dimensions into the research work, thus producing a set of consistent Guidelines and reference platform reflecting the coherent integration of all critical dimensions.

GOAL 5: Design iSAR+ to Suit PPDR Organisations

Introducing new technologies in organisations affects their structures, culture, processes, roles, functions and established power. Unless it is a carefully planned process, it may lead to disruption, resistance to adopt and, ultimately, failure. The iSAR+ Project proposes to thoroughly address the organisational dimension, based on the analysis of PPDR organisations across Europe (via its end-users community ranging France, Finland, Ireland, Norway, Poland, Portugal and United Kingdom), on scenario-based analyses, on the gathering of users’ needs and requirements assisted by the Concept of Operations (CONOPS) and on the analysis and observation of operations (e.g., using case studies, questionnaires and the experimentation performed in iSAR+). The end goal is to obtain an iSAR+ fit for PPDR organisations.

GOAL 6: Design iSAR+ to Suit Users

Individuals in iSAR+ play a crucial role, not only considering the cognitive behaviour and performance in stressful or life critical situations, but also as users of iSAR+ services. Two activities are thus relevant in the iSAR+ research, with respect to designing systems and communicating in adverse circumstances: (1) understand the human psychology and associated performance and behaviour under crisis situations and (2) apply the human factors discipline for systems design. The iSAR+ Consortium will develop a thorough analysis of the adequate mechanisms for an effective bi-directional communication between PPDRs and citizens during crisis situations, addressing form (e.g., audio, image, short messages), platforms (e.g., announcement boards, mobile phones), content, user-interface (in the case of mobile applications), habits [2] and profile (e.g., culture, age, language) [3] and emotional state. The end goal is to obtain an iSAR+ fit for individuals.

GOAL 7: Design iSAR+ accordingly to the EU Ethical and Legal Framework

Ever since its inception, cyberspace remains an unregulated space in what respects to data privacy and protection rights, a situation further enhanced because of its global coverage and the uncertainty as to which legal framework it should respond to. Internet, and social media in particular, are no exception: issues related with handling and mining of private information, illicit uses (e.g., identity theft), and lack of accountability and data ownership rights must be investigated. These concerns are main blocking factors to the generalised adoption of existing and available social media as a PPDR official tool, to disseminate and exchange information with citizens. The end goal is to obtain an iSAR+ Prototype in accordance to the EU legal framework and ethical principles.

GOAL 8: Design an Innovative iSAR+ Technological Platform Exploiting The Most out of Mobile Technology and Social Media

The power of ICT in large-scale emergencies or crisis situations has been demonstrated in the 2010 Haiti Earthquake, in which a plethora of useful tools, such as Ushahidi (for crowdmapping or crisis informatics), Mission 4636 (SMS collection and processing) and Twitter, were extensively used. Nonetheless, the complete potential of ICT for crisis is yet to be unleashed. iSAR+ aims to explore and exploit advanced ICT techniques suitable for PPDRs and citizens, considering the ubiquity of mobile technology to “locate”, “reach”, “be reached by” and “communicate with” citizens (e.g., location of phones via cellular antennas, push SMS) and smartphones advanced capabilities (e.g, apps, GPS, camera, multi-mode connectivity) to provide location-based services and a PPDR-published application to easily send real-time video feeds and images of the crisis situation. Additionally, an iSAR+ online portal, offering social media functions, will be proposed as yet another entrance point for citizens aiming to reach PPDRs in forms other than voice. Compliant with EU legal and ethical principles, this portal would be a valid option for PPDRs’ official use. In the iSAR+ Project, we will also explore new added-value services originated from these new platforms, namely text mining tools (e.g., generate actionable intelligence from large amounts of information), image and video processing (e.g., alert citizens crossing dangerous areas, determine the number of people affected, detect dangerous conditions, such as fires), life-video feeds (e.g., remote operator assessment of the situation in real-time, assisted telemedicine) and crowdmapping (represent people and information over a layered map and timeline features, as used by Ushahidi). A full implementation of the previously mentioned opportunities requires significant effort and budget and it is well beyond the scope of this topic. Nevertheless, the iSAR+ Consortium will explore a subset of opportunities suited for testing, experimentation, user showcases and early deployment. The end goal is to obtain an iSAR+ technological platform offering a powerful subset of services that experiment on the use of mobile technologies and social media by PPDRs.

GOAL 9: Define a stepwise process for the adoption of online social media and mobile technologies

Introducing the full iSAR+ functionality at once for PPDRs and citizens may lead to disruptions and inefficiencies that especially highlight human and organisational constraints. To facilitate the adoption process, iSAR+ shall offer a stepwise approach, in which the number of services to use may be selected and tailored to fit a specific organisation’s needs, capabilities and competences. This process is to be coupled with the production of effective and efficient Guidelines. Additionally, an iSAR+ Roadmap will be produced as a way to aid organisations to smoothly and carefully plan, integrate and evaluate the adoption process of the new online and mobile technologies for crisis response purposes.

GOAL 10: Integrate iSAR+ in the existing PPDR toolkit for crises

iSAR+ is intended as a powerful tool to reinforce the existing PPDR toolkit for crises, which includes well trusted, known and (locally) effective traditional means (e.g., emergency call and physical presence) already extensively used and tested in crisis management and response efforts. Therefore, the iSAR+ approach aims to provide added-value functions that complement existing ones, so that PPDRs have robust alternatives and additional tooling options available.

GOAL 11: Incorporate existing ICT solutions, knowledge and past and current research activities

The iSAR+ Project has been designed to benefit and re-use current ICT solutions, ones available as open source (e.g., Ushahidi, Sahana and Tweek-the-Tweet) and others already developed in-house by the iSAR+ Consortium members (e.g., Deveryware’s Permiloc, THALES’s Visualisation Tools and TEKEVER’s MORE platform). Indeed, the iSAR+ Consortium comprises a set of entities that, for several years, have been actively engaged in conducting research activities related with crisis management, online and mobile ICT solutions, organisational operational analysis, human psychology studies and legal and ethical assessments. Furthermore, the iSAR+ Consortium partners participate in numerous R&D projects, including BESECU, COPE, CRISYS and SICMA, that highlight the excellence expertise deemed relevant to the Project at hand. It is the iSAR+ Consortium’s expectation that all this expertise and know-how is brought into and capitalised in the iSAR+ Project.

GOAL 12: Actively involve a wide community of end-users from all over Europe

The iSAR+ Prototype deals with a vast, complex and multi-dimensional problem that, ultimately, aims to meet end-users needs and expectations, dissipating the scepticism, untrust and uncertainty usually attached to the use of new technologies, namely social media. Thus, the Project’s success requires the early, strong and committed involvement of end-users, namely by making them iSAR+ partners. Moreover, the iSAR+ Consortium already gathers a wide community of 16 end-users from different countries in Europe (Finland, France, Ireland, Norway, Poland, Portugal and the United Kingdom).  The effort to have more end-users joining the iSAR+ community continues throughout the Project, since it is the iSAR+ Consortium’s belief that end-users involvement is fundamental to ensure the willing and feasible application of iSAR+ in Europe. End-users’ participation will be managed and steered by the End-Users Advisory Board.

GOAL 13: Reach a wide dissemination of results

The iSAR+ Consortium will strongly invest in a wide dissemination of its own produced results, a goal that is reinforced not only by the effort applied in the gathering of relevant end-users but also by the efforts to coincide some of the Project’s key milestones with widely known and recognised conferences and workshops dedicated to research communities, companies and professionals working in public safety services (Police, Fire Departments and Ambulance organisations). Dissemination will be achieved by the iSAR+ Consortium members’ participation in related seminars and scientific conferences (with iSAR+ papers and presentations). The Consortium will also organise dedicated iSAR+ workshops at several key stages of the Project, in which the active participation of key stakeholders and potential end users will be encouraged and procured, since they too are valuable focal points for the dissemination of results. Additionally, the transatlantic reach of iSAR+ is sustained by the Consortium’s determination to involve the US SME EBR (expert in the research, experimentation and metrics assessment of homeland security and crisis management) and include the valuable insights of emergency-related experts from Chile (Col. Hernán Joglar) and the US (researcher Elizabeth Gomez). These participants in the iSAR+ Project ensure the opportunity to host a iSAR+ Workshop in the United States of America to disseminate the iSAR+ final results and present the excellence of European research work dealing with the encouragement of the new media users’ involvement in crisis response efforts.


[1] These options were proven effective and efficient by citizens during crisis situation, namely the 9/11, the 2003 SARS Epidemic, the 2010 Haiti Earthquake, the 2011 Great Japan Earthquake.
[2] New users know how to tweet and post to social media platforms, but there is no equivalent PPDR platform. The incorporation of a new official PPDR social media platform, allowing citizens’ posts, will strongly benefit the crisis response efforts, if similiarity in interfaces and functions of popular social media is kept.
[3] Social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, provide information about users’ profile, that includes age, gender and country, among others. In this way, it is possible to send messages directed to individuals as opposed to the ‘general public’. This is undoubtedly a strenghth and innovation brought by social media that, nonetheless, shall be subjected to the legal and ethical scrutiny.