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Anne Kalosh
Wireless tags in life jackets can help pinpoint the exact location of people in an evacuation. This file photo shows a passenger safety drill

EU says wireless tags can boost safety in evacuations, track overboards

The three-year LYNCEUS project, which ends in early 2015, is demonstrating how low-power wireless technologies can help localise and track people on board ships, providing essential information in cases of evacuation, and improve overboard search and rescue, the European Union said in a release about efforts to improve the safety of large passenger ships.

LYNCEUS aims to revolutionize current emergency management and ship evacuation practice.

'We have developed innovative wireless tags, which can be embedded into life jackets, so the location of people within the ship can be easily pinpointed,' said Dr. Anastasis Kounoudes, technical leader and ceo of SignalGeneriX, one of the project partners. 'This will provide safety officers with the exact location of every passenger and crew member during an evacuation.'

The technology can also be used to monitor the health of patients requesting to wear special bracelets, or help parents keep track of the location of their children on large cruise ships, which can carry thousands of passengers and crew. The researchers in the project additionally have developed a radar device able to detect the exact location of people who go overboard.

Meanwhile, the EU-supported GOALDS project, which ended in 2012, created new designs for large cruise vessels to increase their safety in the case of a collision or grounding. By redesigning the ships they would have up to 20% more chance of surviving groundings or collisions. These results have been submitted to the International Maritime Organization to improve safety standards and calculations for cruise vessels.

The GOALDS project is part of a framework of EU-funded research to improve maritime safety.

European Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said the EU will continue to invest in this type of research and innovation in the new Horizon 2020 programme. Launched Jan. 1, this seven-year program will invest almost €80bn in research and innovation projects to support Europe's economic competitiveness and extend the frontiers of human knowledge. The research budget is focused mainly on improving everyday life in areas like health, environment and transport, and partnerships are intended to encourage private sector investment.

The Lynceus project, supported with €2.5m in EU funding, involves 15 participants from Cyprus, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the UK. It is coordinated by Cypriot consultancy RTD Talos Ltd. This research also supports the provisions of the recently amended Marine Equipment Directive, which foresees the possible introduction of electronic tagging on EU-flagged ships.

The GOALDS project received some €3m in EU funding. It involved 19 participants from nine countries and was coordinated by the National Technical University of Athens.

Both projects received funding under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (2007-2013).

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