Natural disasters are escalating world wide due to many issues including climate change and perhaps the global warming. The losses due to these disasters are increasing at an alarming rate. Hence, it is would be valuable to detect the pre-cursors of these disasters, early warning of the people, a systematic method of evacuating them, and the most important in saving lives. However, these disasters are largely unpredictable and occur within very short spans of time. Therefore technology has to be developed to capture relevant signals with minimum monitoring delay. Wireless Sensor Network has come to stay as one of the cutting edge technologies that can quickly respond to rapid changes of data and send the sensed data to a data analysis centre in areas where cabling is inappropriate.
Recently, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) failed to envisage the recent dramatic disintegration of the Greenland ice sheet; mostly due to the uncertainties in modelling glaciers and ice sheets because of its basal boundary conditions. According to researchers, there is growing evidence that glacier movement are unpredictable as to the traditional belief that glaciers flows slowly and continuously. Therefore, glaciers are suggested to be modelled in a similar faction like earth quakes.
A new project that is funded from the Levehulme Trust titled “Investigating glacier stick-slip motion using a wireless sensor network has been initiated at the University of Southampton, headed by Dr Kirk Martinez. According to the expert, “We plan to use geophones, differential GPS to measure the “slip” and use an improved version of the multisensor Glacsweb probes within the ice and till (glacial sediment) to measure the “stick” phase”. The project so far has deployed a long-term sensor network using the latest technology available. WSN technology has the potential of quick capturing, processing, and transmission of critical data in real-time with high resolution. However, it has its own limitations such as relatively low amounts of battery power and low memory availability compared to many existing technologies. It does, though, have the advantage of deploying sensors in hostile environments with a bare minimum of maintenance. This fulfils a very important need for any real time monitoring, especially in hazardous or remote scenarios
According to Dr. Maneesha Vinodini Ramesh of the Amrita Center for Wireless Networks and Applications, Amrita University in India “Our researchers are using wireless sensor networks in the landslide scenario for estimating the chance occurrence of landslides. The main goal is to detect rainfall induced landslides which occur commonly in India”. It is on record that India faces landslides every year with a large threat to human life causing annual loss of more than US $400 million. Moreover, landslide prone-area are usually situated in terrains that are steep, hostile, difficult to access, making monitoring landslides a strenuous activity, even though the wireless sensor network offers itself as an effective, reliable, low maintenance solution. The Challenges comes when wide area monitoring is required, the path or routing mechanism and deployment of the sensor nodes. The algorithm developed Dr Ramesh and his team is shown below.
In summary, the researchers at Amrita University, designed and deployed a Wireless Sensor Network for the purpose of landslide detection with 50 geological sensors and 20 wireless sensor nodes. Their network has the capability to provide real-time data through the Internet and also to issue warnings ahead of time using the innovative three level warning system developed as part of their work. According to Dr Ramesh, the system incorporates energy efficient data collection methods, fault tolerant clustering approaches, and threshold based data aggregation techniques. The fact remains that even though the system is scalable to other landslide prone areas it can also be used for flood, avalanche, and water quality monitoring with minor modifications; the totality of WSN is yet to be explored and hence the new research in the area of Glaciers, earthquakes, pipeline disasters and other critical applications bearing in mind satalites are expensive. The architecture may look similar but deployment and the risk is definitely not going to be the same.