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Distributed computing – developing an early warning system for dikes

October 30th, 2008 · No Comments ·

This posting describes the IJKdijk early warning system project in the Netherlands in some detail – English version.

In the past I have addressed the importance of the dependability of public e-communication networks – ropes to skip – introduction. As well, I have pointed out more than once that it usually all depends on the weakest link in the chain

In case of The Netherlands, being a country that has much of its infrastructure and land below sea level, floodings and storms can be a serious threat to people. For this reason, the country’s dike system is part of its critical infrastructure.

To further improve its system of dikes, The Netherlands has embarked on a research program called IJKDIJK early warning system. The latter takes advantage of distributed computing to build an early warning system that reports problems with a dike, such as water leaking or the walls caving in …. all resulting into possible flooding.

To test these things, the country has began a field test called IJKDIJK near Groningen (Friesland). The field test involves building a large dike filled with electronic equipment. This includes but is not limited to:

– fiber optic meshes,

– laser displacement measurement,

– microphone arrays, and

– standard sensors to measure humidity, pressure and more.

The first picture to the right shows the basin with the containers at the top of the dike. Filled with water, these containers will put additional pressure on the bottom part of the dike. This additional pressure can than be manipulated to test and see how much pressure the dike can take before it begins to leak.

Such work does than help to test what kind of dike construction will be most successful in fighting off floods and prevent the neighbourhood from being exposed to such a disaster.

The drainage pipes are being used to change moisture levels for the dike to again make sure that it is able to protect neighboring fields from being flooded.

The picture to the left illustrates the size of the dike wall quite nicely.

The car and the worker installing some pipes that will again help in changing water levels and moisture.

The last picture to the right shows the full view of the dike. The latter is 100 meters long.

Interesting is also that the researchers believe it will not break due to water pressure. Instead, the unstable ground on which it was built (on purpose, of course) will result in the dike breaking somewhere.

Get a 9 page description with images and pictures as pdf file here:

Meijer, Robert J. and Koelewijn, Andre R. (2008) The Development of an Early Warning System for Dike Failures (Session D: Risk Assessment, Mitigation and Treatment in Waterside Security – Chair: George Baker). In Proceedings 1st International Conference and Exhibition on WATERSIDE SECURITY., pages 148-149 (Abstract – complete version here as pdf = 9 pages), Copenhagen – Denmark.

How does this relate to dependability, resilience and robustness of communication networks?

Glad you asked. Building an early warning system for dikes involves the use of a large-scale sensor network to facilitate the gathering and processing of information.

As the researchers explain:

At specific places in such a network the sensor information converges to computational elements for data analysis. In case of a disaster, the computer network needs to

(1) adapt to the changing environmental conditions to remain functional and

(2) to produce as much information as possible about the environment for later analysis.

To illustrate this further, the network might recalculate the safest place for critical computational elements and move these to new locations.

If network elements fail, or situations arise which need different functionality, how can the system survive by reprogramming network services, and what mechanisms does the network need to implement to, for example, burn MPEG modules into specific FPGA’s to analyze the disaster situation at hand?

Besides many other issues, the field test is trying to address these questions and to decide where these sensors should be placed. Again, distributed computing order carisoprodol plays an important part because unless the information is passed on, the disaster coordination center will not know that a dam broke and flooding is in progress.

I look forward getting the next results (read the 9-page complete version of paper).

Interesting Links


The International Early Warning Programme – IEWP

ISDR: International Strategy for Disaster Reduction – Platform for the Promotion of Early Warning

Special thanks to Rudolf Strijkers a Ph.D. researcher from TNO who taught me most about the IJKdijk early warning systems project during a long and interesting lunch we shared.


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