Smart localisation system for saving lives at sea
An EU-funded project is helping to save lives at sea by using an innovative wireless system to track passengers during emergency evacuations and to locate people swept overboard.
Updated on 13 April 2018
Loss of life during emergencies on large passenger ships could be reduced using faster and more effective evacuation procedures that stop events from becoming chaotic. There is an urgent need for technologies to support efficient and safe evacuation management on cruise ships and ferries.
The EU-funded LYNCEUS2MARKET project is addressing this challenge using an innovative system that locates and tracks individuals in real time during emergencies on ships and also in the sea if they fall overboard. In Greek mythology, Lynceus was an Argonaut with exceptionally keen eyesight.
The system includes smart gateways that establish an on-board wireless localisation network; smart life jackets, bracelets or cabin key cards with low-power embedded electronic tags; hand-held devices that scan these to identify and count passengers during evacuations; decision-support software that integrates data for real-time visualisation; and signal detectors to quickly find people in the water.
“We can save lives at sea, which is the initial goal of the LYNCEUS2MARKET project,” explains the project’s technical manager, Antonis Kalis of SignalGeneriX, Cyprus.
Tracking passengers in real time
Currently, the captain’s main tool in an emergency is a paper plan of the decks. However, this does not show where passengers and crew are at any given time. Moreover, if some areas become inaccessible, there is no way of knowing if people are trapped there.
“This interface is similar to the paper plan, so it can be used without much new training,” says Kalis. “The difference is that with the electronic version you can actually see where everyone is. You can zoom in on different decks and see how many people are there. It’s much more functional than the paper and pencil version.”
The smart bracelet also monitors the heartbeat of the passenger wearing it. People with health problems may choose to be monitored in this way. The technology could also be used by parents to locate lost children on-board ships.
Lynceus technology is designed to be easily integrated into new and existing passenger ship infrastructures, providing a low-cost and robust evacuation management system. Following its successful demonstrations under real-life conditions, Lynceus products could soon be deployed on cruise ships worldwide.
Many shipwreck victims die of hypothermia before they can be found in the water. The LYNCEUS2MARKET team has demonstrated how their technology quickly locates victims, increasing their chance of survival.
“We sent 200 smart life jackets into the water and retrieved them safely,” says Kalis. “It was the first time anything like this has been demonstrated on such a large scale.”
Signals emitted from the life jackets are detected, using rescue boats or unmanned aerial vehicles, and triangulated to determine the exact location of people in the water.
This has three main advantages compared to conventional systems, which are based on satellite communication technology, according to Kalis. “First, response time, as our system is real-time, so information can be sent directly to rescue boats. The second thing is accuracy, which is better than for satellite communication systems; and third is the low cost. Systems based on satellites cost so much that you would not be able to afford to equip life jackets on large passenger ships.”
The project is a collaboration between 16 partners from 8 European countries, including cruise-ship owners and operators, maritime-equipment manufacturers, industry associations, and research and technology organisations.