EMERSE:Enhanced Messaging for the Emergency Response Sector

Research Site : http://emerse.ist.psu.edu/

The 7.0 Earthquake in Haiti has mobilized the entire world to support the relief effort, especially through novel uses of the cyberspace. Even though the earthquake damaged much of the communication¬†infrastructure in Haiti, Haiti’s Internet connectivity is robust¬†because most Haitian Internet Service Providers use satellite, rather than the damaged undersea fiber optic cable link, to connect to the Internet. Consequently, relief workers, regular citizens, and non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) have used Tweets extensively to spread and share information about the needs, events, and relief operations. However, these tweets are not easily aggregated into meaningful topics for ease of delivery to people who critically need the information. The goal of this research project is to develop and deploy, in collaboration with an NGO coordination body (NetHope), a reusable text message-based infrastructure that classifies and aggregates multi-lingual tweets and text messages about Haiti relief operations by topics and regions so that they can be easily subscribed by NGO’s, survivors in Haiti, and their friends and families. The research project leverages existing software developed for entity extraction and topic classification so that the system can be developed and deployed quickly to respond to the time critical needs at Haiti. The evaluation of the system includes feedbacks from NetHope as well as quantitative metrics about the usage and performance of the system. The intellectual merit of the research is developing integrated engineering solution to automatic identification of topics and geo-location from short-messages utilizing contextual information, which lays important foundation for designing the next-generation information infrastructure for emergency response and disaster management.