Intelligent and adaptive emergency response based on AI and 5G

The United States saw 22 separate multi-billion dollar weather disasters in 2020, a record. The following year he placed second., with winter storms in Texas and the Deep South; wildfires in California, Arizona, Colorado and other states; numerous severe tornadoes out of season; and multiple tropical cyclones, including Ida, Elsa, and Fred.

Adding to these threats is America’s aging critical infrastructure. In 2021, the American Society of Civil Engineers endowed the nation’s infrastructure Grades C and D in 16 categoriesincluding power, roads, bridges, dams, levees, drinking water, and wastewater.

When disaster strikes or infrastructure fails, people, sometimes entire city populations, can be at risk of injury, illness, or death. A swift and coordinated response is imperative to minimize damage, restore services, and prevent damage.

Reliable communication is critical to that response. However, communication equipment is also at risk from natural disasters and infrastructure failures. How do officials keep first responders and citizens connected and informed when the network itself is offline?

One promising answer is an ingenious combination of 5G communications, various forms of artificial intelligence, and other advanced capabilities. The technologies and techniques are already available. Innovative government organizations are beginning to explore the possibilities of mitigating disasters and mitigating emergencies.

5G, meet AI

Fifth-generation cellular networks, or 5G, have improved the speed, responsiveness, and utility of mobile communications. Overlaying 5G with various forms of AI can enable a network topology that is situational aware, intelligent enough to automatically and rapidly detect and evolve with changing conditions.

For example, the Department of Defense could combine 5G and AI to enable the military’s cellular network to seamlessly connect its various operating environments on the battlefield. The network would have the intelligence to dynamically modify its own topology to remain secure and resilient, while making data exchange more secure and reliable. That would enable faster and smarter decision making in situations where speed and precision are paramount.

The same basic concepts apply in disaster and emergency situations. The result would be a purpose-built emergency 5G network that acts as a holistic adaptive organism. It would continuously detect changing conditions, allow information to flow intelligently where it is needed, and empower both disaster victims and responders to take the right actions at the right times.

There is a drone for that

In disasters like wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes, it’s not unusual for cell phone towers to be damaged, disrupting connectivity. In these cases, telecommunications providers or first responders, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, may bring cells on wheels (COWs). But these trailer-mounted tower replacements can take hours or days to implement, and in mountainous or wooded areas, they’re not always feasible.

One solution would be to deploy 5G-equipped, AI-enabled drones as adaptive, airborne cell towers. Machine learning and simplified AI heuristics can intelligently track first responders, rescue vehicles and related equipment to maintain cell service where needed. These capabilities can detect and navigate obstructions such as mountains, vegetation, smoke, and severe weather. They can automatically heal the network if portions are damaged recently.

In addition, AI can grow or shrink the network as needed or relocate it as people and equipment change locations. If a rescue team is in danger or their needs take precedence over those of other users, the technology can optimize coverage to meet those requirements.

In other words, 5G and AI combine to create a network that is context-aware. The network can account for how many stationary and aerial cell towers are available, what their maximum range is, how much battery power they have in reserve, how weather conditions can affect those factors, etc.

AI-equipped 5G drones could even coordinate with AI-enabled equipment on the ground. For example, AI could automatically manage power consumption to maximize battery life. Or it could automatically connect a rescue team’s smartphones to create a mini 5G network.

The technology to achieve these goals is available today. In fact, at least one major telecommunications operator has field-proven 5G-equipped drones in remote environments. AI models will need to be trained for these use cases, but that learning can now start in centralized locations and then be fine-tuned at the edge, in real-world conditions.

The innovative combination of 5G, AI, drones, and other technologies promises to transform the way government agencies and critical infrastructure operators respond to emergencies. They can reliably and cost-effectively ensure that rescue and response teams maintain continuous communication. Ultimately, they can improve the safety of emergency victims and responders and optimize disaster response outcomes.

Leland Brown is a Principal Engineer and Technical Director of Advanced Communications for Military, Aerospace, and Government at Intel Corp.

Stan Mo is a Systems Architect in the Internet of Things for Public Sector Programs group at Intel Corp.

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