FKIE project "lokik" goes into test operation

An independent communication network and a flexible situation picture for the acute phase of a disaster: That is the goal of the "lokik" project, short for "Local initial crisis management". Scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Communication, Information Processing and Ergonomics FKIE have been working on it since the devastating flood night in the Ahr Valley in 2021. In spring 2022 the researchers officially presented their project for the first time in the building of the Winzer-Verein in Mayschoß. A lot has happened since then - in the flood areas along the Ahr, but also in the "lokik" project.

© Fraunhofer FKIE/ Ralf-Michael Vetter
The Ahr near Mayschoß, taken immediately after the flood disaster in July 2021 (picture left) and one year later.
© Screenshot: Fraunhofer FKIE
Via the digital "lokik" location map - the screenshot shows houses at a street intersection as an example - the affected residents can request technical support, but also report their own offers of help.
© Screenshot: Fraunhofer FKIE
Shooting for the ARD documentary "Deutschland im Ernstfall" with presenter Lena Ganschow (3rd from right) in Mayschoß: Together with "lokik" project manager Arne Schwarze (l.), helpers and those affected report on their experiences of the flood disaster in the Ahr valley.

The small village of Birresdorf in the municipality of Grafschaft has about 930 inhabitants and 150 households. Along with Mayschoß and Remagen it is one of the partners with whom the FKIE has been working intensively on the project since the beginning. "In the next few weeks we will start test operations in Birresdorf," says FKIE research group and project leader Arne Schwarze. "We want to sound out how local people can also use 'lokik' in everyday life." The test installation in Mayschoß is also to take place before summer break.

The fact that direct experiences of those affected by the flood flow into the "lokik" project was an important concern for the scientists. Many colleagues at the institute, which has its headquarter in Wachtberg, were also hit hard by the catastrophe in July 2021. Others were involved in the relief and clean-up work for weeks and months. All the findings are being incorporated into the development of the project, which has now entered phase two.

"No electricity, no grid, infrastructure destroyed, connection to the outside world cut off," describes Schwarze the initial situation in many places in the Ahr valley. This is the starting point for the "lokik" solution. It consists of a hardware and a software component. Especially when the communication networks fail as they did on the Ahr, the hardware is important. It makes it possible to set up a self-sufficient network through which end devices can access the digital "lokik" situation map.

Computers and mobile communication components are positioned in a safe place in the community. In the event of a disaster they are put into operation independently of external technology with their own power supply − from a commercially available power bank to a power generator.

Software is based on a digital map

The software is based on a digital map that shows the infrastructure of a town or city. It can be accessed via a browser on a smartphone, tablet, or computer. In the event of a disaster citizens can enter a damage or problem situation so that the local crisis team can quickly obtain an overview and better coordinate operations.

After the first round of feedback from the project partners in Birresdorf, Mayschoß and Remagen, the scientists expanded the "lokik" test system by another component at the end of 2022: Local people can now report not only problem situations but also offers of support via the situation map. "The situation in the Ahr valley showed that there was an enormous demand for drinking water, medicines, tools, or vehicles, for example," Schwarze describes.

Somewhere in the village these resources were probably available, but often it was not possible to disseminate this information. Added to this was the allocation of certain "functional roles" for the map users. "Citizens and the local crisis team have different views - if only for data protection reasons," Schwarze explains. "The third function is new: a kind of 'sifter' who for example checks the reported extent of damage and confirms it to the local crisis team."

During the test operation in the coming weeks the next round of feedback and further individual interviews will also take place. The requirements identified during these interviews will then be prioritised and incorporated into the system. In addition "lokik" will be tested for its practical suitability in the summer during a large-scale exercise with the Euskirchen THW.

Positive responses to the project

The FKIE team has already received numerous positive responses to the project which runs until September 2023. In TV reports, including the two-part ARD documentary "Deutschland im Ernstfall" (Germany in an Emergency), "lokik" was a topic as well as at the expert congress of the Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance in Bonn and in several working groups of the Landkreistag NRW. In addition some companies have already expressed their interest.

A concrete cooperation has been established with the Bundeswehr's Centre for Digitalisation and Capability Development Cyber and Information Space: Starting in May, an interface to the "Sitaware" software − the basis for the Bundeswehr's new command and control information system − will be developed to make "lokik" compatible with the system. A point that is particularly important to Schwarze: "We don't want to develop an isolated solution. With the appropriate interfaces, 'lokik' complements and supports other systems and thus also has a long-term benefit in the event of a disaster."

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