Localizing wireless devices to rescue the victims of disastrous events

With mobile devices being used widely, their localization, though challenging, has become an important task for many applications including emergency rescue and recovery. Detecting victims of disastrous events fast enough to be able to rescue them is no easy task. With technologies capable of localizing wireless devices inside a building, however, a happy ending is much more likely.

A team of researchers from the Integrated Communication Systems Group at the Technische Universitat Ilmenau in Germany considered a scenario in which an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is flying over an urban area that suffers from a disaster and measures received signal strength of 802.11 beacon frames, coming from nodes that need to be localized. The purpose of the UAV is ‘to localize all survived devices that are Wi-Fi-enabled and can be represented by user mobile phones, notebooks, gadgets.’

Drawing on previous research that had shown that it outperforms the existing algorithms in terms of localization accuracy, the researchers decided to use a so-called LMAT path-planning algorithm and evaluated it in experiments using a real UAV. Oleksandr Artemenko, Alina Rubina, Oleg Golokolenko, Tobias Simon, Jan Romisch, and Andreas Mitschele-Thiel focused on the anchor-based localization algorithms and argue that a signal strength-based localization is very attractive despite its lower location accuracy in comparison to other methods.

They also compared the location estimation accuracy across device types and observed the relationship between the nodes’ positions and localization error. They conclude that this path-planning algorithm can, indeed, be applied for disaster scenarios.

The paper was awarded the Best Paper Award at AdHocNets 2014. For more details, read the full version.