US-Jordan planning visit: Integrated wireless and geographic information infrastructure for security in a multi-organizational context

Project: Research project

Project Details


This planning visit, led by Carleen Maitland of Pennsylvania State University, University Park, will scope the technical, information sharing, and organizational requirements for an integrated security information system for use in refugee camps. The collaboration includes co-PIs Elizabeth Belding from the University of California, Santa Barbara and Brian Tomaszewski from the Rochester Institute of Technology working with Nijad al-Najdawi from Al-Balqa' Applied University in Jordan. This planning effort will begin with the Za'atari Camp for Syrian refugees in northern Jordan.

This research project will address important technical design constraints that can be applied to a variety of systems, working first with the particularly challenging constraints of a refugee camp with limited infrastructure, complex organizational networks, and a population of shell shocked residents who are unfamiliar with their physical environment, services providers, and one another. The research resulting from this visit will generate design recommendations for rapidly deployable integrated information systems which will: develop the parameters to use wireless mesh networks to establish new approaches to location identification, prepare GIS data analyses and visualizations that can meet the needs of a variety of organizations and user skill levels, and evaluate mechanisms for sharing security-related information between groups with different concerns such as police, UN personnel, NGOs and residents themselves. The planning visit includes important meetings with camp governance, humanitarian and aid organizations, and with refugee community organizers.

Security is a significant problem in many environments but particularly challenging in refugee camps due to the lack of infrastructure and the information-sharing challenges stemming from security being a joint responsibility of the United Nations and the host government. This effort will develop design constraints for a system that could be applied to other refugee camps as well as to other environments. The technical components of this intra-camp system will consist of a wireless mesh network, augmented with cellular network functionalities, integrated with a geographic information system (GIS). The platform will enable information sharing by security personnel, humanitarian service providers and residents. The platform will be tested with information generated by a specially designed concealed weapons detection system, developed by the Jordanian collaborator, Dr. Nijad al-Najdawi from Al-Balqa' Applied University. The key intellectual contribution of the resulting work will be the design and deployment insights gained from overcoming the infrastructural and organizational challenges inherent in the refugee camp setting.

This research will help to foster human security in a variety of contexts where emergencies such as natural disasters and violent conflicts lead to people living in environments with limited infrastructure, focusing first on the millions of people living in refugee camps. Two U.S. graduate students will be involved in this planning visit and in subsequent research efforts, providing an exciting opportunity for international, interdisciplinary research early in their careers. This research represents a new research trajectory for all four of the researchers involved, although complementary to their existing expertise. The planning visit may also lead to educational modules for undergraduate and graduate courses that will expose other students to discipline-specific examples that provide an international context for their studies.

Effective start/end date10/1/149/30/16


  • National Science Foundation: $26,763.00


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