Sensors provide some of the basic input data for risk management of natural andman-made hazards. Here the word ‘sensors’ covers everything from remote sensingsatellites, providing invaluable images of large regions, through instruments installed on theEarth’s surface to instruments situated in deep boreholes
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Sensors provide some of the basic input data for risk management of natural andman-made hazards. Here the word ‘sensors’ covers everything from remote sensingsatellites, providing invaluable images of large regions, through instruments installed on theEarth’s surface to instruments situated in deep boreholes and on the sea floor, providinghighly-detailed point-based information from single sites. Data from such sensors is used inall stages of risk management, from hazard, vulnerability and risk assessment in the preeventphase, information to provide on-site help during the crisis phase through to data toaid in recovery following an event. Because data from sensors play such an important part inimproving understanding of the causes of risk and consequently in its mitigation,considerable investment has been made in the construction and maintenance of highlysophisticatedsensor networks. In spite of the ubiquitous need for information from sensornetworks, the use of such data is hampered in many ways. Firstly, information about thepresence and capabilities of sensor networks operating in a region is difficult to obtain dueto a lack of easily available and usable meta-information. Secondly, once sensor networkshave been identified their data it is often difficult to access due to a lack of interoperability between dissemination and acquisition systems. Thirdly, the transfer and processing ofinformation from sensors is limited, again by incompatibilities between systems. Therefore,the current situation leads to a lack of efficiency and limited use of the available data thathas an important role to play in risk mitigation. In view of this situation, the EuropeanCommission (EC) is funding a number of Integrated Projects within the Sixth FrameworkProgramme concerned with improving the accessibility of data and services for riskmanagement. Two of these projects: ‘Open Architecture and Spatial Data Infrastructure forRisk Management’ (ORCHESTRA, http://www.eu-orchestra.org/) and ‘Sensors Anywhere’(SANY, http://sany-ip.eu/) are discussed in this article. These projects have developed anopen distributed information technology architecture and have implemented web servicesfor the accessing and using data emanating, for example, from sensor networks. Thesedevelopments are based on existing data and service standards proposed by internationalorganizations. The projects seek to develop the ideals of the EC directive INSPIRE(http://inspire.jrc.it), which was launched in 2001 and whose implementation began this year(2007), into the risk management domain. Thanks to the open nature of the architecture andservices being developed within these projects, they can be implemented by any interestedparty and can be accessed by all potential users. The architecture is based around a serviceorientedapproach that makes use of Internet-based applications (web services) whose inputsand outputs conform to standards. The benefit of this philosophy is that it is expected tofavor the emergence of an operational market for risk management services in Europe, iteliminates the need to replace or radically alter the hundreds of already operational ITsystems in Europe (drastically lowering costs for users), and it allows users and stakeholdersto achieve interoperability while using the system most adequate to their needs, budgets,culture etc. (i.e. it has flexibility).