Emergency Water Information Network (EWIN)
With climate change, flooding is an increasing challenge, particularly for developing countries that have not been able to invest in flood-monitoring infrastructure.
The Emergency Water Information Network (EWIN) is a project funded by the British government’s Global Challenges Research Fund.It is looking at ways to study flooding from rivers in Mexico as a representative example of a country that is currently struggling to manage increasingly regular and severe floods.
A problem common to many types of flood is that the initial source of the water is unknown. This makes it difficult to learn from past events and recognise warning signs in advance. Most developed countries have sophisticated sensor networks in place to monitor rivers and provide adequate advance warning of flooding. Developing countries often lack this infrastructure, however, in common with the UK, they do have state-of-the-art cellular mobile phone systems.
The Emergency Water Information Network project has therefore sought to develop a cost-effective real-time flood sensing system using cellular technologies combined with hydrology sensing that could be easily deployed in developing countries. In addition, it could be tailored to the environment where it will be deployed.
EWIN comprises three teams of researchers from the UK and Mexico, supported by SMEs with expertise in water engineering and embedded electronics. These multi-disciplinary teams have been monitoring river states using low cost wireless sensor networks close to rivers. Since most of these areas have wide mobile phone coverage, we expect that multiple radio network providers will be able to provide radio coverage for the catchment area. Along with background research, prototyping sensors and flood modelling, the teams have conducted a series of highly targeted field trials.
Loughborough University has provided expertise in water engineering and radio communications to complement the research base in Mexico from University of Colima and the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
Our team has shown that it is possible to use existing cellular infrastructure and WiFi communications to monitor the behaviour of rivers. The team have developed both fixed network nodes and drifter nodes which can relay real-time hydrological data to a processor for assessing the real-time flood risk. We anticipate that this type of network can be developed further so that it can be adapted to other flood-monitoring scenarios, in any country that has existing support for 3G/4G and the need to understand local hydrology
Dr Robert Edwards - Reader in Mobile Communications
"The sooner you know a flood is coming the better, so the impact of this research is massive. Never in my career have I seen an opportunity to help so many people at once."