Research Highlights / Full Story

Using space-based technologies and a colorful interactive Flash-based matrix developed at RIT, United Nations agencies involved in providing support to countries in the area of disaster risk management can specifically identify space-based technology solutions to support the disaster management cycle.

Brian Tomaszewski, an assistant professor in RIT's department of information sciences and technologies, and several students have teamed with the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER), a programme being implemented by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), to create a Web-based tool that provides information, communication, and process reporting to disaster managers. This tool, called the Space Application Matrix, takes existing information available-mostly case studies, guides, and product information-and makes it easier to access and retrieve.

"The Space Application Matrix has an intuitive, visual interface as opposed to the keyword searches that were used before, says Tomaszewski. "The information is now much easier to access."

The tool allows users to select from a variety of hazards, ranging from fires to oil spills to epidemics, providing to disaster managers information on how they can utilize space-based technologies in the various phases of the disaster management cycle (mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery). These technologies include satellite communication-useful when there is no cell phone coverage in an area-satellite navigation and Earth observation/remote sensing technologies.

Tomaszewski began working on the tool in the summer of 2009 with the help of RIT students. He spent three months in Bonn, Germany, immersed in the knowledge portal and other geographic information science and technology projects for the United Nations. It was completed in January 2011, after he recruited information science and technology students Joseph Spens and Beytullah Sarcia to put the finishing touches on the project.

Results of his research with the UN-SPIDER Programme ensure that all relevant information is available and accessible to all those interested in understanding how space-based technologies could contribute to their everyday needs.