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Real-time Landslide Warning Systems by Amrita Center for Wireless Networks & Applications

This goal was soon achieved when the newly established center was entrusted with the esteemed WINSOC (Wireless Sensor Networks with Self-Organization Capabilities for Critical and Emergency Applications) project in collaboration with 11 prominent academic and industrial partners from Europe via the European Commission’s FP6 program. Today, AmritaWNA is internationally recognized fo rits successful development and deployment of the world’s first Wireless Sensor Network (WSN)System for the Detection and Early Warning of Landslides in the Munnar region of Kerala.

Dr. Maneesha Ramesh, Director, AmritaWNA, explains that “wireless sensors are increasingly becoming popular since sensor nodes are small, simple and inexpensive, requiring no cabling to connect them to each other or to a control center and can be used in a variety of areas related to disaster management and environmental monitoring.” Dr. Venkat Rangan, Vice Chancellor, Amrita University, states that “the innovative, multi-level warning system is able to issue real-time alerts before an impending landslide, facilitating evacuation efforts and saving lives. The WSN system for landslide detection and monitoring, developed by AmritaWNA, offers a major contribution to the field of disaster management in India and abroad.”

None of this would have been possible, however, without the grace and guidance of Amrita University’s Chancellor, Sri Mata Amritanadamayi Devi, also known as Amma. A celebrated spiritual leader and humanitarian, Amma’s commitment to conduct meaningful research and develop technology for humanity motivated AmritaWNA scientists to create wireless sensor networks worthy of real-world applications. “We wanted to fulfil Amma’s wish of developing wireless sensor networks that could be deployed in the field and have the ability to save lives”, stated Dr. Ramesh. “We wanted to move away from just publishing our research to actually implementing our research.” The journey, however, was not bereft of hurdles. Dr. Ramesh explained that many challenges manifested throughout the process of development and deployment but that“Amma’s support and divine grace was constantly present.”

There are four unique attributes to the WSN system engendered by AmritaWNA. First, it harbours the ability to mimic biological systems where the high accuracy and reliability of the whole sensor network is achieved through the proper interaction among low-cost sensors placed close to each other. Second, the sensor network can dynamically configure itself in the event of any nodal failure, thereby forming a self-healing and self-organizing network. Third, the landslide detection system’s signals are available online, enabling researchers to study the signal variations and patterns on a real-time basis. Fourth, the system is capable of achieving globally optimal decisions without the need to send all the collected data to a fusion center.

The WSN system is comprised of embedded earth probes, such as pore pressure sensors, moisture sensors, strain gauges, geophones, tilt meters, inclinometers, rain gauges and a large, dense wireless sensor network that provides a comprehensive matrix of geotechnical data from the deployment site. Furthermore, the network is hierarchical and is comprised of two layers, a lower layer and an upper layer. The lower layer consists of low cost sensors responsible for gathering information from the environment and producing locally reliable decisions. The upper layer consists of sophisticated nodes that convey information to the control centers.

Overall, the Wireless Sensor Network System for Landslide Detection was able to provide large-scale data collection algorithms, power optimization schemes, scalability for field deployment, remote network configuration, data fusion for multiple data types, and network heterogeneity. Furthermore, researchers were able to investigate the interaction among nearby sensors, which were designed to increase overall network reliability, decrease the probability of congestion around sink nodes, provide scalability and tolerance against breakdown or stand-by of some sensors, and eliminate the necessity for battery recharge.

In 2009, the system successfully delivered real-time warnings during the monsoon season in the Munnar district of Kerala. Based on these warnings, the Government of Kerala issued evacuation alerts to local communities. AmritaWNA was awarded the NABARD Innovation prize for contributions towards rural development in 2012. The project was also greatly praised by Dr. R. Chidambaram, Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India who stated, “The wireless sensor system developed by Amrita University and successfully tested at Munnar in Kerala to forecast natural disasters like landslides can be replicated in similar disasters-prone areas elsewhere in the country.”Subsequently, the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY), Government of India funded the project for another two years and the Department of Science and Technology (DST) is currently funding the project in Munnar, Kerala. The Ministry of Earth Science (MoES) is currently funding projects for AmritaWNA, enabling the development and deployment of similar systems in Northeast India and the Himalayas.

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