Irvine, Calif., Sept. 18, 2003 -- The National Science Foundation today announced it will award $9 million to UC Irvine and $3.5 million to UC San Diego to address how information technology can revolutionize response to crises, including natural disasters. The five-year project, called "Responding to the Unexpected," will develop innovative information sharing tools and organizational strategies for first responders, and will be managed by Cal-(IT)², a two-campus science and innovation institute created in 2000. Cal-(IT)² provided the seed money for the project.
"I am pleased to see UCI and its partner, UCSD, successfully compete for federal dollars to improve our urban crisis response using technological ingenuity," said U.S. Representative Christopher Cox, Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. "Large threats call for large-scale coordination, and new technology can provide critical tools to our early responders."
"The award illustrates the possibilities of large-scale collaboration which California's Institutes for Science and Innovation initiative envisioned," said Larry Smarr, director of Cal-(IT)². "It will create a framework in which a wide range of academic innovations can be brought to the needs of first responders."
The funding has special significance for UCI because it constitutes the largest NSF research grant in the Irvine campus' history. "This NSF award is a qualitative change in the level of support for Cal-(IT)² at UCI," said Ralph J. Cicerone, chancellor of UCI. "We expect CAL-(IT)2 to make great breakthroughs in information technology, telecommunications and their applications because of the cooperation between our two campuses."
Led by Sharad Mehrotra, UCI professor from the School of Information and Computer Science, and his collaborator Ramesh Rao, director of the UCSD division of Cal-(IT)² and a professor of electrical and computer engineering, the research will be validated in trials with first responders from the Irvine and San Diego police departments, the city of Los Angeles, county of Los Angeles and the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services.
According to Mehrotra, the goal is to radically transform the ability of early responders to act as "human sensors" to gather, manage, use and disseminate information to decision makers to help reduce casualties, economic loss and social disruption. "Examples include integrating different information sources such as satellite images, video and sensor data with field observations to monitor the situation," said Mehrotra, "retain security and network availability in failure- prone environments, integrate distributed heterogeneous computer systems and leverage community resources to most effectively disseminate information to the public."
Robust information technology solutions will give access to the right information, to the right people, at the right time, while addressing the complex social and cultural aspects of information-sharing among people and organizations. The team of subcontractors includes faculty from the University of Maryland, Brigham Young University, University of Colorado, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and ImageCat, Inc., a Long Beach, Calif. firm that specializes in risk assessment and management.
"This project will provide a national-level forum for academic researchers, the first-responder community, and industry to collaborate and develop information infrastructures that reduce the negative impact of disasters," said Ellis Stanley, general manager, Emergency Preparedness Department, city of Los Angeles.
The California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, Cal-(IT)², is one of four institutes known as the California Institutes for Science and Innovation, funded by the State of California and industry, and based on University of California campuses. The institute was formed to help ensure that California maintains its leadership in the technology marketplace and extend the reach of the Internet throughout the physical world. Cal-(IT)² is a partnership between UCSD and UCI, and teams faculty with research professionals, students, and industrial partners on interdisciplinary research projects. For more information, see www.calit2.net
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