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Ant Colonies Help Evacuees in Disaster Zones

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A new system developed in Japan that can map escape routes for disasters is based on the behavior of ant colonies.

Credit: Miriam Brandt

Researchers in Japan have developed a system that can map escape routes for disasters based on the behavior of ant colonies.

The system is designed to provide maps for the shortest routes to shelters and regular updates of current situations via the smartphones of emergency workers and those caught up in the disaster.

Daido University's Koichi Asakura and the Nagoya Industrial Science Research Institute's Toyohide Watanabe have carried out successful simulations of the construction of navigational maps using the approach. Smartphones serve as networked, mobile sensors that can feed information back to emergency centers. The data from myriad smartphones is analyzed with the researchers' understanding of the behavior of an ant colony in mind. The use of phones' Global Positioning System and other tools to build active navigational maps is similar to the way ants use pheromone trails to assess how recently colony members left particular signals to find optimal routes to and from the nest via food supplies. The next step is to build an ad hoc mobile networking system so evacuees can access the active maps.

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Abstracts Copyright © 2014 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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