EU-SENSE: Innovative Network of Heterogeneous Sensor Nodes for Improved Chemical Threat Detection

By Łukasz Szklarski, Head of R&D Department, Institute of Communication and Information Technologies

The Global Terrorism Database is reporting a decreasing trend in the number of worldwide terrorist attacks from the record number of 16,903 cases in 2014 to 8,093 in 2018. Despite reducing that number by almost a half in four years, the threat is far from gone and the ongoing arms race is resulting in more varied means of warfare, including the use of chemical weapons. This, combined with the ever-present risk of industrial accidents involving chemical agents and toxic industrial chemicals directly translates to a constant need for improvements and innovative solutions in terms of threat detection, situational awareness, and personnel training capabilities.

The EU-SENSE project, realised under the European Commission’s patronage (Grant Agreement No. 787031 ) within the HORIZON2020 programme is aiming at addressing those needs by developing novel technologies (both in terms of hardware and software) in the form of the heterogeneous sensor node, situational awareness tool, and simulation mode (that can also be used for training purposes) in order to improve the real capabilities of crisis management teams, while also significantly improving the safety of the on-site personnel. Moreover, the system has an open architecture, which allows it to be integrated with other technologies to broaden the range of its applications and provide further improvements in the field of threat detection and elimination.

The EU-SENSE system is developed with close cooperation with practitioners and potential users of the system with respect to their needs (that have been gathered during workshops), an ongoing exchange of ideas, and with respect to gaps and needs provided by the ENCIRCLE Catalogue and the study prepared by the International Forum to Advance First Responder Innovation (IFAFRI). Said study lists the capability gaps that the first responders are faced with in their operation, for example:

  • The ability to know the location of responders and their proximity to threats and hazards in real time.
  • The ability to detect, monitor, and analyse passive and active threats and hazards at scenes in real time.
  • The ability to rapidly identify hazardous agents and contaminants.
  • The ability to incorporate information from multiple and non-traditional sources into incident command operations.
  • The ability to obtain critical information remotely about the extent, perimeter, or interior of the incident.
  • The ability to create actionable intelligence based on data and information from multiple sources.

Developing a solution able to effectively fill those gaps is one of the main objectives of the EU-SENSE project. This system is prepared by a consortium consisting of 9 entities of various specifications (research facilities, governmental bodies, academic institutes) operating under the patronage of the European Commission and its HORIZON2020 programme. Such a diverse scope of expertise among the consortium members allows for a holistic approach to the development process with a free-flowing exchange of ideas and experience among all partners.

Heterogeneous Sensor Node is an innovative solution that would allow to combine various detection technologies (depending on the sensors integrated with the node) in order to provide a wide range of detectable compounds. The following sensors are examples of successful integration with the EU-SENSE Heterogeneous Sensor Node:

  • Gas Detection Array – Personal (GDA-P) (AIRSENSE Analytics GmbH). Based on Ion Mobility Spectrometer H2O chemistry (IMS) and Electrochemical Cell (EC)
  • Gas Detection Array – Personal (GDA-P) (AIRSENSE Analytics GmbH). Based on Ion Mobility Spectrometer NH3 chemistry (IMS) and Photo Ionization Detector (PID)
  • AP4C (Proengin) - Flame Photometric Detector (FPD)
  • MO sensor array- Metal Oxide Sensor array

Additionally, the node would offer a significantly reduced false-alarm rate thanks to data fusion, which would be further aided by the Environmental Noise Learning Tool – a tool constantly processing data from the environment allowing to reduce false-positives by limiting the environmental noise or “clutter”.

(EU-SENSE Sensor Node prototype)

The node allows for live data streaming via a wireless connection with the network controller (Wi-Fi) and is equipped with a GPS module. Each node will also have a backup data storage (SD memory card) containing its configuration and gathered data in case of lost or interrupted connection with the command centre. It should also be mentioned that the EU-SENSE sensor node will support remote commands allowing the operator to start/stop the measurements, reconfigure or get the current status of the device via the system’s user interface, which would directly improve the management of the sensor network and facilitate the operation.

Situational Awareness Tool is the user access point of the whole EU-SENSE system displaying the readings from the sensor nodes and calculations of the computational tools in order to provide the operator with a situational view of the whole area of interest. It is responsible for the computations management as it prepares the necessary input data, especially for the Hazard Prediction and Source Location Estimation tools.

(EU-SENSE Situational Awareness Tool – User Interface)

The implemented graphical user interface (GUI) allows for processing pipeline configuration and selecting active components. The SA Tool could also enable manual control, i.e. for triggering hazard prediction with a pre-defined source location or raising and cancelling the alarm. The system’s user will also be able to select the system operation mode in the user interface choosing one of the following options: Training, Preparedness, and Response. Training Module is based on the simulation mode, which facilitates integration testing of all incorporated modules of the EU-SENSE system. The training component is mainly used to run training sessions for the end-users (first responders and the decision-makers of the response team).

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The user is able to use this module to replay both historical and artificial scenarios (which can be modified accordingly with input from the user) in order to prepare a completely simulated training session without the need to deploy personnel and equipment in the field. With the use of this module, potential end-users are able to learn how to use the EU-SENSE system in a controlled, easily adjustable environment. The EU-SENSE project provides novel technology aimed at improving real capabilities, efficiency, and safety of the first responders and risk management teams when dealing with chemical threats, whether as a result of a terrorist attack or an industrial incident. With the inclusion of such innovative solutions like the Heterogeneous Sensor Node or the Situational Awareness Tool, and an intuitive Training Mode, the EU-SENSE system is a solution that will have an instant impact on the working conditions of the emergency response teams and the whole chemical safety market. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 787031.

Łukasz Szklarski has received a Master's degree in 2006 in the field of IT. In 2018, he gained a PhD degree in the area of security. Since 2006, he has been working at ITTI Sp. z o.o. in Poznań. He is an expert in the field of modern security and military technologies, especially sensor technologies, CBRN protection, biometric solutions and IT systems. He has been also involved in the development of innovative biometric and sensor solutions. Moreover, he is experienced in IT system management certified on all ITIL 3 levels including expert certificate. For 12 years, he has been involved in R&D projects in the area of security for European Commission as well as European Defence Agency. He has participated in numerous projects focusing on crisis management (e.g. SECTOR, DESTRIERO) as well as security of external borders, including green border areas, of the European Union and Schengen Area (e.g. FastPass, PROTECT, iBorderCtrl). In terms of defence research projects, the main activities focused on the detection of potential hazards for the military, detection of enemy forces, soldier protection as well as improvement of military units communication (e.g. UGELAS, CENSIT, SIMS, CARDINAL). He also coordinates EU-SENSE and EU-RADION consortium works. He has Personal Security Clearance up to the following levels: EU CONFIDENTIAL, NATO SECRET, national SECRET.