W3CW3C Incubator Report

W3C EIIF Incubator Group Report

W3C Incubator Group Report 6 August 2009

This version:
Latest version:
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This is the first public version
Chamindra de Silva, LSF/Virtusa
Renato Iannella, NICTA
See the Acknowledgments


This is the final report from the Emergency Information Interoperability Framework XG. The XG recommends that the W3C initiate an Interest Group to continue the work of the XG and expand the outreach to standards development through partnerships with professional communities and interoperability workshops.

Status of This Document

This section describes the status of this document at the time of its publication. Other documents may supersede this document. A list of Final Incubator Group Reports is available. See also the W3C technical reports index at http://www.w3.org/TR/.

This document was developed by the W3C Emergency Information Interoperability Framework Incubator Group, part of the W3C Incubator Activity.

Publication of this document by W3C as part of the W3C Incubator Activity indicates no endorsement of its content by W3C, nor that W3C has, is, or will be allocating any resources to the issues addressed by it. Participation in Incubator Groups and publication of Incubator Group Reports at the W3C site are benefits of W3C Membership.

Incubator Groups have as a goal to produce work that can be implemented on a Royalty Free basis, as defined in the W3C Patent Policy. Participants in this Incubator Group have made no statements about whether they will offer licenses according to the licensing requirements of the W3C Patent Policy for portions of this Incubator Group Report that are subsequently incorporated in a W3C Recommendation.

This is the final recommendation from the EIIF XG.

Table of Contents

1 Executive Summary

The Emergency Information Interoperability Framework Incubator Group (EIIF XG) has demonstrated in its period of activity the large scope of the standardisation effort required in the emergency management / humanitarian response domain. To evaluate feasibility, the group worked on and piloted concepts on the specific use case of "Who is doing What Where," which is a common information coordination pattern in this domain. The main results of this effort, as committed to in the goals of the EIIF XG, are the emergency management information standards review, in draft form, and a framework document surrounding the use case (ontology, scenario definition, standards gaps), in final form. However the group also delivered many valuable by-products, including a review of emergency management systems, and references to popular glossaries/control vocabularies and prevalent regulations in the domain. A proposal has been made in this final report for further evolution and investment in the much-needed work outcomes of this group. The benefit of this proposal lies in expanding the scope of the EIIF effort, which will help to promote standardisation and ultimate efficiencies in system to system interoperability, providing the time- and mission-critical end results in humanitarian response.

2 Background to the EIIF XG

The EIIF XG was formally convened in January 2008 to explore the goal of the assessment and creation of interoperability standards in the emergency and disaster management domain. It concluded its work in June 2009. The emergency management community encompasses a broad spectrum of local, national and international organisations. Comprehensive emergency management is generally composed of four key phases: mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. This incubator group aims to encourage the emergency management community in the development of clearly defined vocabularies and a framework for information interoperability to ensure the meaningful sharing and aggregation of information to assist in emergency functions.

2.1 The need for interoperability standards in emergency management

The wide range of organisations involved in emergency management requires a collaborative approach to the sharing of information. Information systems to support a collaborative approach to emergency management can add significant value, especially as the scope and scale of an event increases, and with it the volume of information that is required to be managed and shared. It is essential that information is stored and communicated in common formats to ensure that information can be easily exchanged and aggregated to support decision making. A key component of this process is ensuring that consistent definitions (vocabulary) are used to support meaningful sharing of information.

2.2 Rationale and sponsors for a W3C incubator group

The rationale for the selection of the W3C as the host for this activity was based on its enforcement of a royalty free policy, its reputation, and its ability to be a transparent and non-partial host for the assessment and formation of standards in this area. The group was initially discussed by Tim Berners-Lee; then sponsored by the W3C members Google, IBM, NICTA and SICS; and co-chaired by Renato Iannella from NICTA (Australia) and Chamindra de Silva from LSF/Virtusa (Sri Lanka). The initial group of members were recruited at an ad-hoc session at the ISCRAM (Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management) International Conference in 2007 (Delft, the Netherlands).

2.3 Participation and collaboration

Participation in the group was from a diverse community spread around the world from Australia, UK, Canada, Sri Lanka, Italy, U.S., and Thailand, to name but a few. The group used the W3C EIIF Wiki to record teleconferences and manage document sharing and creation, and a public mailing list with over 85 members. The XG members formally held a face-to-face meeting after the 2008 ISCRAM International Conference (Washington D.C., U.S.) and held associated special sessions on standards and ontologies at ISCRAM 2009 (Goteborg, Sweden).

2.4 Deliverables

The deliverables of the EIIF XG were identified as the group progressed; however, as the scope of these deliverables was sizable, a slice of them was taken as proof of concept for the incubator group, to be further developed in any groups that might follow the XG.

The deliverables were identified as:

The XG scope focused on the coordination use case of Who is doing What Where (W3). The W3 use case identifies the sharing of information about relief agencies, their contacts, services and areas of operation in a emergency or disaster

3 The use-case based approach for knowledge discovery

The analysis for the framework report took a use-case or scenario driven approach to ensure we kept the assessments and recommendations grounded pragmatically in the emergency management domain. The main use-case was identified for assessment, namely, as mentioned above, the "Who is doing What Where" (also known as "3W").

The approach taken for the use-case based assessment of existing standards was recommended as follows for this XG:

As of today, most of the steps above were completed for the W3 use case in the Framework report.

4 The emergency management ecosystem

The emergency management and disaster management domains consist of a number of stakeholders, with different roles, objectives and interests. These collectively form the ecosystem in the EM domain. Development of IT standards must address the drivers and obstacles that influence practical adoption of such standards. Successful standards take advantage of the interests (today as well as tomorrow) of these stakeholders.

The following major stakeholders are identified:

During the incubator group the majority of the work was being done by members from the ICT solution provider group, academia and forums, and state-based EM teams. Moving forward, we would like to engage more with international coordination agents, professional communities, and non-governmental organisations.

5 Existing standards and technology

5.1 Existing emergency management systems

As part of the discovery process, we identified many information systems that are available in the domain; however there is certainly a lack of good interoperability standards and thus very little scope for the effective integration of these systems to provide a holistic disaster coordination solution. Many systems have been discovered by the EIIF community with the help of other supporting communities such as Humanitarian-ICT and ISCRAM. A Emergency / Disaster Management Systems and Products wiki page has been created to catalogue these systems on the EIIF portal.

5.2 Existing emergency interoperability standards

The group also catalogued a list of relevant emergency management standards on the EIIF wiki . One of most significant activities on standards is by the OASIS group in the creation of EDXL (Emergency Data Exchange Language) and CAP (Common Alerting Protocol). Others have included the development of PFIF (People Finder Interchange Format) that came out of the Katrina People Finder Project, the NIEM (National Information Exchange Model), and CWML/TWML (Cyclone and Tsunami Warning Markup Language, respectively). However, a number of standards suffer from being confined and biased to one particular jurisdiction. A more global and public approach is required for better acceptance. Disasters certainly do not constrain themselves to regional boundaries.

5.3 Encouraging open standards

Given the nature of the domain, open standards are encouraged. This is for a multitude of reasons, not least the fact that the domain is represented heavily by NGOs and voluntary groups that would otherwise not be able to benefit from the divide resulting from royalty based proprietary standards. Such a divide would also defy the goal of providing a holistic disaster coordination effort and reduce the efficiencies of disaster response. For a standard to be considered open, three levels of openness are encouraged:

The use of free and open source is increasingly encouraging in this domain as that promotes the development of open standards and free and modifiable libraries that implement such standards. This also has the added benefit of helping to rapidly spread the integration of the standard into systems and thus quickly help the pervasive adoption of the interoperability standard.

6 W3C's role in EM standards

The W3C has traditionally been working on core Web protocols and browser languages, and its membership has been represented by a diverse mix of academia, commerce, non-profits and government institutions. Emergency information interoperability standards are evaluated and implemented by a diverse mix of state based groups, academia, commercial vendors and NGOs; and thus W3C's diverse membership is an appropriate fit for the development of standards. Additionally, emergency standards should be open; W3C's royalty free policy, reputation and the open community participation mechanisms (as used in the EIIF XG) can greatly encourage the development of such open standards.

7 Recommendations

Much work remains to help realise the goals of the EIIF XG, as the scope of effort is quite large. The incubator group identified an effective approach to address the goals incrementally, by defining smaller sub-problems through a use case based approach. However many other use cases remain to be analysed in the domain. We need to engage more participation by the NGOs and professional bodies. To that effect we are recommending the following for any subsequent group:

Informal queries about interest in participation has resulted in positive responses from two large technology providers (IBM, Google), three National EM / ICT agencies, two professional international communities, and more pending.

7.1 Proposed Scope of an EM Interest Group

In the pilot of the EIIF XG, certain benefits were identified:

What the EIIF XG was not chartered to do was to work on much needed information standards. Thus it is proposed that the natural progression of the EIIF will maintain the above benefits, whilst also encourage the development of standards across the wider community.

With that in mind the following is being recommended:

The scope and activities of the W3C Emergency Management Interest Group (EMIG) would include:

The EMIG would form strong links to existing W3C groups:

8 Conclusion

The W3C played an important role giving credibility to this activity and providing an open non-aligned environment for open participation and collaboration on the goals of the XG. A significant amount of work has been done in support of recognising the need for standardisation in this domain through this group and in an assessment of what it would take to bring about results. Valuable by-products have also resulted, such as the directory of emergency management systems that should prove a valuable reference for consumers of such systems in this domain. More work is certainly needed to advocate the results up the value chain to the respective end user organisations (NGOs, governments, professional and vendors); thus a proposal has been made for a way forward. We hope the the W3C and its members will continue to help provide a home for these most valuable efforts that will eventually result in efficiencies in the humanitarian response domain.


We would also like to recognise the following key individuals who supported this Incubator Group and most contributed directly to our end results, including the Framework and Final Reports. Thank you very much for time and contribution in support of the goals of the EIIF XG.

We would also like to acknowledge and thank the following organisations who have sponsored and supported our efforts:

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