Researchers study role of computing in disaster mitigation

National 2 minutes, 14 seconds


SUPERCOMPUTING has directly contributed to advancements in disaster mitigation and prevention, aiding ongoing research in Brunei and the region, a seminar heard yesterday.

Researchers from Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) and Malaysia’s Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) yesterday shared computer-aided findings on flood forecasting systems in Brunei and disaster alert systems in Malaysia.

These were discussed in the morning session of the second day of the “Recent Technological Trends in Computing Research” seminar ongoing at UBD.

UBD’s IBM Blue Gene/P supercomputer – a mainframe computer capable of rapidly processing complex calculations – is credited for most of the scientific information presented in Dr Sandhya Aneja’s talk on UBD’s flood forecasting system.

“The model is already in use (in Brunei) through the UBD|IBM Centre’s mobile application for alert systems, which has been proposed. Soon, it will be available, within the next six months. It is in the working stage now although the accuracy has not been checked. Using daily observations, we are trying to verify this,” said Dr Aneja.

He added that the application is already in use and its developments are known to government agencies working in disaster management.

UTM lecturer Shukor Abd Razak also presented his proposals for a disaster alert system (DAS) based on a “friendship mechanism”.

Existing DASs in the region are still using conventional relay methods such as sirens, radio and television and fixed telephone lines, he said, arguing that these systems provide no guarantee that warning messages will reach the mass of the people.

Credibility was also an issue discussed.

“There are not many readiness programmes in the region. The problem is that people take for granted existing alerts. In the recent (dam burst) incident in the Cameron Highlands (Malaysia), sirens were sounded but people ignored them because they didn’t understand the message… We can eliminate this through social or crowdsourcing systems based on friendship and trust management,” said Shukor.

His studies referred to the “six degrees of separation”, adding that computer simulations show that individuals only need to know about five or six other individuals to identify a relationship.

His DAS-UTM proposes building on the real world situation in the region where there are large families and networks, allowing it to explore the suitability and efficiency of trust management and a friendship mechanism.

In November 2012, the UBD|IBM Centre conducted a training workshop on flood forecasting using UBD’s supercomputing facilities to address and tackle challenges in planning and developing strategies for better environmental management.

Its ambitious forecasting projects hope to predict weather patterns in the country for up to 50 years, while flood forecasting systems aim to provide a flood warning time of 18 hours.

The Brunei Times