OGC’s IMIS IoT Pilot shows how diverse sensor systems can communicate ad hoc now in emergencies and disasters

Rapid integration of information from diverse information sources plays a key role in responding to emergencies and disasters. The number of sources grows rapidly with the growing number of cell phones and other mobile devices, and also with the growing number of different types of sensors. Cell phones and other mobile devices all have sensors such as temperature, accelerometers, GPS, compass and wireless signal sensors that can be useful during crises. Also, more and more municipalities, businesses and homeowners are deploying internet-connected sensors such as smoke alarms, webcams, and gunfire locators. Of particular value in emergency and disaster scenarios are cameras and health and environment sensors mounted on or in equipment worn or carried by first responders and on their vehicles, including UAVs.

More sensors are becoming accessible online, but their value depends on the ability of users and applications to 1) communicate about their existence 2) know their state, locations, descriptions, software interfaces and access rules for outputs and controls, and 3) integrate information from diverse sensors. This is all possible using standard data models and encodings implemented with open Internet and Web technologies. Without such standards, rapid information sharing and integration is only possible either within stovepiped sensor webs that implement proprietary encodings and interfaces or between proprietary systems on which extensive one-to-one integration work has been done before an incident occurs.

The OGC Incident Management Information Sharing Internet of Things Pilot Project (IMIS IoT Pilot), sponsored by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate[1] and the IJIS Institute[2], is being launched to demonstrate open system sensor integration for emergency and disaster response.

The OGC’s recently issued Request for Quotations/Call for Participation (RFQ/CFP) in the IMIS IoT Pilot invites technology providers to participate in demonstrating standards-based approaches to resolving difficulties that hinder effective use of diverse sensors in emergency response and disaster response situations. The IMIS IoT Pilot is a pilot project designed to apply, test and demonstrate, in real world applications, Standards Based Commercial Off-The-Shelf (SCOTS) products that already implement or will soon implement existing OGC standards and other related open standards from other standards organizations.

The IMIS IoT Pilot sponsors’ use cases, requirements and scenarios are described in detail in the RFQ/CFP. After the pilot completes, outcomes will be documented in public OGC Engineering Reports, which may result in OGC  discussion papers, best practices or new standards-prototyping activities.

 IMIS IoT Pilot design

Figure 1: IMIS IoT Pilot notional system design.

In the IMIS IoT Pilot, Sensor hubs (S-Hubs) that implement OGC Sensor Web Enablement (SWE) Standards will enable integration of information from 3 different types of proprietary sensor systems. See Figure 1 above. The UAV, health and environmental sensor systems are potentially provided by different sensor system providers and they may be based on proprietary encodings and interfaces.  The diverse sensor systems and S-Hubs, however, are equipped with interfaces that implement open interface standards. These interfaces recognize and output data encoded using the OGC’s open encoding standards. This enables communication between the proprietary systems and an open-ended number of apps and control systems on the larger web. The larger sensor web may be assembled in an ad hoc manner on short notice or it may be integrated as part of a larger first responder network. The HubCat, a catalog of registered sensor systems and sensor types, provides emergency and disaster managers with information about sensor resources. Those resources might be searchable, for example, by location, sensor type and sensor state. The resources might include stored sensor data, searchable by date and time. WMS: OGC Web Map Service Interface Standard. SOS/STA: OGC Sensor Observation Service Interface Standard/OGC Lightweight SOS Profile for Stationary In-Situ Sensor Best Practice. WNS: OGC Web Notification Service Discussion Paper.

The RFQ/CFP and information about the IMIS pilot project are available at http://www.opengeospatial.org/standards/requests/133. Responses are due by 5:00 pm EDT on 22 May 2015.

For more information, please contact Lew Leinenweber, Director Interoperability Programs (imis-iot-responses [at] opengeospatial.org). See http://www.opengeospatial.org/ogc/programs/ip for more information about the 15 year old OGC Interoperability Program in which OGC testbeds, pilot projects and interoperability experiments are organized, planned and managed.


[1] DHS S&T is the primary research and development arm of the Department of Homeland Security.

[2]  The IJIS Institute represents industry’s leading companies who collaborate with local, state, tribal, and federal agencies to provide technical assistance, training, and support services for information exchange and technology initiatives.