Ensuring that high degree of safety measures to alert students or visitors within their premises in case of a fire emergency is a legal responsibility of a university. Although fire safety measures are already in place it is particularly not effective taking the case of people with Hearing impairment. These traditional fire alert systems such as flashing lights, beacons and strobes have proven to be not effective to address these emergency situations. These systems do not communicate with people having Hearing impairment in directing them towards nearest fire exit points or informing them of any alternative fire evacuation procedures. The growing trend in Information Technology has brought in many advances but only a few systems are put in place to address this situation. A highly safe and effective 'Fire Alert System' for people with complete or partial Hearing impairment needs to be put in place to alert them of such situations. This research is undertaken to build a prototype for implementing a 'Fire Alert System' using technologies such as RFID and mobile alert system at the University of Wolverhampton.
The usability of the Fire Alert System is very important and is given highest priority in the development stages. The importance of working with the users to improve the design of the system is ensured by constantly working with people having Hearing impairment. At each stage of development User Centred Design is the key to implementing this system. Use of questionnaire to assess user's ability to understand system and provide their opinion is a key to improving quality of the system. Involving users to work along with the system design by being able to provide review can be helpful in effective design. Studying similar systems will also be helpful in improving design constraints and working on issues in those systems. Technologies available within the University of Wolverhampton have been chosen in implementing the system as it would reduce cost effectively and be help ease of adoption.
The initiation of this topic idea has been retrieved from one application which was developed for Pervasive Computing module in second semester of my Masters course. But the technology and requirements which was used made that application very simple and easy. Thus it was not given satisfactory outcome because of developing those types of complicated issues in a simple manner. As a result to develop the same idea at Post-Graduate dissertation level to get pleasing product is only possible with the use of more emerging technologies and effective requirements. Considering from this point view, Usability issues and User Centred Design principles were opted to give more boost to this topic in getting results up to the mark.
To Develop a prototype Fire Alert System for People with Hearing Impairment at University of Wolverhampton using RFID and mobile alert system by issuing them with fire evacuation procedures in case of an Fire emergency.
- The main task is to design and develop a system that reflects the user needs (Alerts, Messages, ease of use, flexibility and scope) especially Hearing impairment people by involving them in development of such system. The final outcome of this system should be helpful for Hearing impairment people to escape from critical situations like an emergency evacuation.
- Delivering information to the Hearing impairment people in the best possible way which is very important for them to know in terms of safety, by developing user friendly interface, in which usability and User Centred Design plays a major role.
- Critically evaluating the User Centred Design methods & usability guidelines and describing those approaches in report on the basis of this research and practical experience during the development of proposed system.
- Developing a prototype system that will useful for people with hearing impairment in terms of emergency evacuation.
- The project will deliver Fire Alert SMS (Short Message Service) system by sending messages to target person's mobile phones, then the Vibration System in their mobiles alert them from SMS to evacuate.
- In this system RFID works as user input and the SMS works as system output and Vibration mode works as Alert.
- Hearing impairment people can be given RFIDs to locate them by loading their data in database to send particular alerts.
- When fire broke-out in building, this system will sends SMS alerts to Hard of hearing people to their mobile phones according the stored database.
- The alert gives nearest fire exit information and directions from their location in the form of SMS with the help of online messaging service.
- More features might be added after conducting interviews and questionnaire with Hearing impairment people about their problems and needs in this particular situation.
Resources (Hardware & Software)
Some of the following equipments are needed to be purchase for this system to develop and are available in market very low at cost.
- Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) kit - (Available at kanda.com)
- Internet & LAN Connection (cables available at amazon.com)
- Short Message Service (SMS) (Online free SMS service)
- Mobile Phones.
- OPERATING SYSTEM-WINDOWS XP / VISTA
- MICROSOFT VISUAL BASICS (ASP.net and C#)
- SQL Server
The appropriate citations are given in this thesis to acknowledge the contribution of the authors whose articles have helped in carrying out my research work. Any data obtained for the purpose of this thesis will be preserved and are confidential. The software used in developing the proposed system will be genuine. Appropriate parts of the British Computer Society (BCS) code of practice are to be followed in carrying out the research. This thesis is developed in the partial fulfilment of the requirements of University of Wolverhampton for the degree of Masters in Science.
The issues concerning people with Hearing impairment such as usability and ease of technology adoption are discussed using the research available. A few systems which are currently put in place to address such issues are discussed. Usability issue is a major concern when trying to address people with Hearing impairment. The factors which affect user's ability to interact with an interface are studied by understanding the usability issues.
Usability Issues and User-Centred Design
Having plenty of software systems around us with immature usability, one is sure to have many frustrating experiences that lead you to recognize the fact that the usability strategies are used at a bare minimum. In spite of the fact that the concepts of usability are discussed over and over again, it is evident that these concepts are not addressed properly in most projects. As per Natalia Juristo, usability can be termed as quality measured feature that could be applied in many organizations. Based on her 20 years of calculations, it can be said that a developed system can be explained to a user in the form of presentations, which is nothing but usability. By using the generally accepted design strategies, the system developers are adopting a unique approach of segregating the presentation part from the system functionality. This resulted in altering a specific component of the application without affecting the other entities if the application. This leads to an idea that the concepts of usability should be applied in the later stages of development process to avoid complications in improving the key factors like quality.
Nielsen states the usability plays a crucial part of quality management which helps in designing user friendly systems by improving the ease of use. Nielsen believes that usability is based on five quality components, which are ease of learning, proficiency, ability to remember, minimizing errors and enhancing satisfaction. Jordan bases his definition of usability on user-friendliness and states that ISO is based on effectiveness, efficiency and user satisfaction.
According to Anderson, usability can be achieved by having the following three positions in any project. The first and the most important position are of a usability engineer, who is involved in assessing the intellectual ability of the user about the product. The primary responsibilities of a usability engineer would be to gather the information about users' requirements, perform an analysis of these needs and implement them in development of a system. The usability engineer's other responsibilities include examining the end-users capability (which would mean researching the user' educational background, computer usage ability), calculating the average turnover for the product and look-over the product' performance. After the usability engineer, the next important position is of a user interface design engineer whose primary role is to get a head start by designing the initial interfaces and examining the end-users' interaction with the system. And the final position of usability involves testing the product design, documenting and analyzing the results and providing the complete entire results to the development group.
Iivari describes the first step of designing an interface as identifying the interface user, checking his requirements and his effort involved in the task. To design a proper interface, the designer should be in constant communication with the user to create a interface that would precisely meet the end user's requirements. For this to happen, the users must have a lot of involvement during the design phase, so that the designer has an exact idea of user's requirements in creating a prototype that meets their needs.
As per Louise Roberts and Fels, the usability issues in hearing impaired can be addressed as the key step in designing the software and product life cycles. Several usability evaluations (like cognitive walkthrough and talk aloud protocol) have been used on people with disabilities but cannot connect to them properly. Researchers in these fields should receive incentives from legislation and good design practice to consider inclusive technologies.
Roussos and Kostakos suggest a joint usage of Radio Frequency Identification and Mobile Service point of view to meet the purpose. RFID technology can be used to identify objects in a distant range, and in combination with mobile service tags, claims to provide better results. For example, RFID tags can provide a mechanism for mobile devices to bootstrap communication taking a localized rather than network approach, and agree on a communication channel, media format and so on. Near-Field Communication (NFC) technology addresses these additional requirements. NFC was introduced by Philips and Sony in the year 2002. (Roussos&Kostakos, 2008) NFC pre-installed mobiles can be able to directly work together with ISO 14443 RFID tags to get-back service descriptive information and details on how to access them. With the help of these mobiles the connectivity of internet is also possible through the cellular or wireless networks. As a result of this NFC technology, the tags works as substantial hyperlinks and are then further performed as actions, this hyperlink features is available on all NFC smart phones for increased resources. For example, in this facility of NFC is used to transform smart phones into a tangible interface for pervasive computing applications that automatically identify and retrieve information relating to particular objects or locations (Roussos & Kostakos, 2008).
The term, User-Centered Design evolved from Donald Norman's research lab and became widely popular after the publication of the book, User-Centered System Design: New Perspectives on Human-Computer Interaction. UCD is a method in which the requirements and limitations off end-users of an interface are given careful attention in every step of process design. UCD can be considered as a multi-stage problem solving process, which involves the designers to predict the usage of the interface and test the validity of these assumptions with the actual users in real tests. Rigorous testing of such sorts should be mandatory, as it is very difficult for the interface designers to understand the experiences of the first-time design user and his learning curve. The key feature of UCD is to design interfaces that work around people who can use these interfaces instead of forcing these users to work around the interface designed by the software developers. UCD helps the designers in creating a product that would be engineered to meet the users' needs. The main advantage of this model is that the user requirements are kept in consideration from beginning to end and are integrated into the whole product life cycle.
As per Dumas & Redish (1993), Usability testing aims to achieve the following goals:
- The usability of product increases with the testing.
- By conducting testing on people with usability problems.
- By checking whether users have completed the given task.
- Ability to capture the reactions of users towards testing and documenting them properly.
- To be able to effectively analyze the reactions of users.
UCD is be applied in designing interfaces for people with disabilities by using the strategy designed at The World Congress on Technology for people by Late David Stone to react to Disabilities, that is names pervasive Accessible Technology (PAT), as per which the human standard devices are employed by people with disabilities in communicating with the latest technologies. The two major bones of PAT are to maintain Standards with accessing technology and handling interface.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
Pathak and Joshi (2009) defined RFID as a generic term for technologies employing radio waves for detecting other objects. This technology has a phenomenal increase in its adoption because of its advantages. It is a rapidly progressing technology available within the market and is used widely in domains such as payment, product tracking, transportation and many others. The field of pervasive computing is using RFID as a major component in automation. The use of RFID to easily track and manage by monitoring the assets has facilitated its use in wide range of applications. The communication of these takes place both ways as signals are transmitted and transponded along with devices. This kind of transfer is like a handshake i.e, if a device transmits signals then upon receiving those signals the device acknowledges by transmitting an acknowledge signal. The information which is transponders from the receiver carries information relating to help identify the device and necessary details. However this is not the case with each and every device as their are active and passive devices. The Active RFID tags are operated with the help of battery but the passive RFID tags do not need any charge as they do not have a range. They are just detected by the RFID reader when it passes through its range. Passive transponders are quite cheap and last lifetime. However this is not the case with active transponders as they cover large areas. These transponders are more costly to deploy and they do not last long.(Pathak 2009)
Architecture of RFID Middleware
The day to day increase in number of applications being developed using RFID integration has been creating a high demand to integrate them among the competitive markets. The ability an RFID technology to be able to adapt itself to different kinds of communication protocol has made it very effective. This technology saves lot of time and is very effective as well. However, the markets are seriously observing the shifting patterns towards integrating RFID technology. The challenge is being able to use the current system along with RFID technologies. As the RFID readers need to use the current systems such as barcodes and other product information to be able to identify various product lines. The integration of this information on to RFID readers and tags poses a serious security concern for protection of data due to unavailability of high standard security protocols within RFID technologies. The solution is to effectively address a standard architecture which can handle all these challenges effectively. (Yanyan et.al 2008)
The integration of RFID reader hardware to effectively manage the data on an information system along with a proper interface is key to address the current situation. The ability of an RFID Middleware to effectively manage RFID hardware and the applications of an enterprise is very high. The RFID Middleware is very challenging topic and a lot of companies are thoroughly engaged in this research. (Yanyan et.al 2008) The architecture for RFID middleware is shown below in fig 2.1.
These RFID middleware get data from the RFID readers which in turn collect the data from tags. Each of these readers can store data of multiple tags and then it needs to transmit data to the middleware. The importance of the middleware is to collect the tag data from the reader and process them to be used by the particular application. The middleware has control of the reader in terms of access and data collection. The reader can be programmed according to the needs. As the data from the reader comes in it has algorithms which filter the data and then deliver to the application programs. The security of the data handled by middleware is very important as it can be data relating to credit cards or some important details. The functions of the middleware are shown below in Fig 2.2.
Security of Data within RFID
The importance of security is more stressed in using RFID's as the data within a tag can very easily be stolen and misused. The tags transmit data whenever a reader requests for data. As the reader does not physically scan the tag to get the required information it can be misleading. Implementation of proper encryption and network protocols for data flow should be done properly to restrict information from being stolen. As middleware is a place for proper protocol implementation. As the data is transmitted using the data compression techniques it is immediately secured using the data security layer where this data is encrypted or decrypted before transmitting or upon receiving. The information will then be processed into its database. The implementation of data management model is shown in Fig 2.3.
This research work is focussed on finding an easy and effective solution for emergency situations like fire alerts for people with hearing disabilities. To find an effective solution to this problem it is very important to study about the current systems which are presently available in the market and focus on all the pros and cons of the available technologies from every perspective. One such existing system which has proven to be effective in helping people with hearing disabilities is DeafWatch built by the company Wireless Alert Solutions Ltd. DeafWatch describe that This equipment broadens the effectiveness of an existing fire alarm system by wirelessly enabling pocket receivers (dedicated "pagers") to react to an alarm condition over a range of up to 3 km, depending on local topography. In the event of the alarm being activated, anyone with a "pager" will be alerted by the system, sending the pre-set message or location ID by enabling prompt onsite action to be taken. This powerful system is implemented by various organisations, companies, retailers and many institutions including universities, schools, colleges and councils. Imperial college of London, University of Northampton, Kirklees College, Swansea College, Sutton Coldfield College and West Midlands Police Authority are few institutions to name. Although most of the systems are expensive, they have been installed for the purpose of safety measures around their campuses. DeafWatch has been designed to be a best-in-class brand leading radio based deaffire alarm warning system for Deaf and hard of hearing people. Although all the solutions are designed by the same company, the focus is on two colleges of which one had legacy system in place which required to be changed and the other had to get a new solution. (Wasol 2008)
DeafWatch Fire Alert at University of Northampton
TheUniversity of Northamptonis located in central England. It is well known for its innovative and modern approach. It is a medium sized university and the university is well spoken about their striving attitude to achieve success in all the activities. The university practices health and safety laws by investing in them heavily to support its students and visitors on the campus. The university has always shown special attention towards Deaf and partial hearing impaired students and staff and took maximum care in providing a safe place for them. They initially had a legacy paging system as a safety system for deaf and partial hearing impaired people. But this system was only placed in the campus buildings which they considered most vulnerable. Now they wanted to replace the existing system due to the various problems they faced. The university was concerned about the coverage problem of the legacy paging system as the system does not provide full coverage. Technical developments were a solution to overcome this problem but this lead to a drastic increase in support and maintenance costs.
The university was focussed on providing a solution that could cover length and breadth of its campus and they turned towards solution proposed by WASOL (Wireless Alert Solutions Limited) called DeafWatch system.DeafWatch: a fire alert solution to warn Deaf and partial hearing impaired people. DeafWatch is a small radio receiver that is carried by the student, which vibrates when it receives a message from a DeafWatch transmitter. It has a display on the top where the user views the information sent to them. DeafWatch design addresses highest concerns relating to the safety and coverage of its solution. It is similar in addressing fire emergencies like any other standard fire alert solutions available. The DeafWatch describes its system and its 5 watt broadcasting licence are able to overcome coverage problems. The legacy paging system coverage was also limited by its 2 watt broadcasting licence, which inevitably led to increased costs as expansion demanded additional transmitters. The Technically Assigned frequency operated by Wireless Alert Solutions was specifically chosen for its ability to penetrate internal and external environments. (Harris 2009)
This system is able to co-exist with different frequencies that are within the campus environment and are consistently outperformed by the DeafWatch frequency modulation technique. Using a combination of DeafWatch transmitters at different strategic points all the campuses at the University of Northampton can be effectively covered. It is important that all deaf students and visitors are informed of fire evacuation procedures (i.e. where exits are and what to do) and know how to use the alternative alert system provided. The DeafWatch system provides complete nature of the fire alert and along with its location to its staff and students. A personal receiver is issued to these people having hard of hearing problems. This receiver has a display which is backlit and be able to show messages with up to 20 characters which is of square shape and is approximately of a match box size. Standard personal receiver is 80 x 54 x 19 mm, holds up to 40 messages, time and date stamped. Operates on standard AA batteries, but intrinsically safe if fitted with MN1500. It was ensured that whole of the campus was covered properly leaving no place using a proper solution. A member or members of staff should be responsible for managing the system and the system should be regularly checked and maintained. Even car parks within the campus are effectively monitored by fire alarm signals which synchronize with security centre continuously. This solution was implemented by the company to be cost effective by deploying 3 transmitters to cover whole area of the campus to be monitored only on the working hours. These transmitters were then used to cover the halls of residence during out of work hours on the 3 residence buildings. Each of these transmitters had a receiver which was used to alert in case of fire emergencies from their respective transmitters to particularly know which hall of residence was the fire alert related to and DeafWatch has provided a solution to this environmental obstacle as well. This was particularly helpful to stop issuing unnecessary alert all other users having personal receivers.(Harris, 2009)
DeafWatch Fire Alert at Imperial College London
Imperial College is a science-based institution and is rated amongst the world's best universities. with a reputation for excellence in teaching and research. They are known to implement high standards in what they do and what they provide. So naturally they would insist on the highest quality products and systems to be used in and around the Imperial College Campus. When such systems are to be used to help protect students and staff, then such a prestigious college places paramount importance on choosing the right systems.Imperial had previously looked into fire alarm solutions for Deaf and partial hearing impaired people in the past, but they were not satisfied with available systems due to the large scale buildings and the coverage problems occurred while simulating the systems before use. Other systems with poorly licensed options required multiple transmitters to cover just a single building, so covering such a vast Imperial college proved difficult and made the University finding a safe system very hard while the size and complex nature of the laboratories and dense materials contained within them made full coverage seem impossible.(Andrew 2009)
On reviewing available options by the university DeafWatch was selected. These huge challenges seemed less troublesome for DeafWatch. A single fire alarm and a single DeafWatch transmitter achieved complete coverage of whole buildings from the ground floor using only a low power five inch antenna. DeafWatch was supposed to be used in conjunction with Imperial's sophisticated central control system. The central control system of the university identifies fire activations and co-ordinates the management. And by using these two systems together a problem has been identified. The central control system operates over a variety of cabling, the correct method for information only services that are operating and performing well. Appending DeafWatch to this system had made DeafWatch a part of the fire alarm system, so non-fire retardant cable was inadequate. This meant that the college buildings would have to be considered individually or in clusters to rectify this problem. (Andrew 2009)
The infrastructure of Imperial College is huge, some buildings are securely interconnected. There are twenty six buildings altogether. Using DeafWatch fire alarm system all this buildings could be secured by only nineteen DeafWatch transmitters, which meant that, along with the bulk purchases for such a large project, significant savings were possible. A combination of different small antennas and a maximum power output of 5W meant Deaf Fire Alarmcould securely cover all buildings. (Andrew 2009)
With sophisticated technologies used in laboratories of almost all the departments of Imperial college of Science installing DeafWatch had to face unusual and difficult challenges at every step. Andrew 2009)
Within the college Halls of Residence, DeafWatch utilised its daytime and night time programming protocols, ensuring that daytime messages would not be received by sleeping students, while those who are unsafe would receive Fire Alarm coverage. Despite the challenging circumstances the cost effective solution provided by DeafWatch Fire alarm for deaf and hard of hearing people at Imperial college of London is outstanding and considered to be best system provided by its available competitors. Even though the inter-building infrastructure was not able to be exploited in most cases, a flexible approach meant that a cost effective solution was possible. This resulted in Imperial College London considering a comprehensive approach to their Fire Alarm system within a year's budget. After a successful expansion from the original two transmitters, Imperial College have already expanded the DeafWatch - Deaf Fire Alarm system two a total of twenty two transmitters, covering a total of twenty nine buildings across the whole South Campus and other sites besides. This proves that DeafWatch helped Imperial college achieve their goals of safe, secure and welcoming environment for all their guests.(Andrew 2009)
The uses of this system enables any people with Hard of hearing around any building within the campus are alerted. It has the capability of alerting only those people who are at risk rather than alerting all the people with Hard of hearing at night times. If students are on residential courses or placements, fire safety in the accommodation is extremely important, as hearing aid users who can hear alarms during the day may not hear the alarm when they remove their aids to go to bed and will also not be able to rely on visual cues. The main advantage of this DeafWatch system is it provides guaranteed complete building coverage and provides messaging. This system is usually very rapid to install and does not affect the dcor of the building. This system is suitable for small and large infrastructure buildings. DeafWatch consistently outperforms paging licensed competitors both in per unit price and potential coverage, and also requires less number of transmitters for the same coverage area which also reduces the price. DeafWatch also provides wide range of transmitter output which can be uniquely adjusted on site from 100 milli watts to 500 watts. Transmitter can handle 8-10 building or evacuation zone inputs from the fire alarm.
The staff and students are supposed to use this system effectively and for this training and awareness education should be provided. The system should be checked regularly and the regular replacement of batteries is required. If a student looses or forgets to collect his pager they will need to rely on other signals like flashing lights if provided.
The integration of mobile phone with RFID has many advantages. This RFID reader working is ensured with the help of mobile phone as it is directly integrated on to mobile chipboard. It is similar to a Bluetooth installed on a mobile device. The RFID reader uses the charge of the mobile phone to work. The ability of a mobile to work with RFID reader is ensured by properly installing the software and its device drivers. This reader works by reading tag information onto the device. Information about the product is transferred on to the device and can be used to do various transactions such as purchases and payments of different types. An application is available on the mobile phone to be able to interact with the reader data and interpret it accordingly. This interface can be helpful in effectively operating the reader. Information read by RFID reader is sent across the mobile network to carry out different transaction. The main purpose of mobile RFID reader is to simplify any day to day based transactions such as making payments, shopping, easy billing and other banking facilities. The RFID integration on mobile phone however does not provide the reader to read different kinds of tags. As RFID tags are available in many different types. This requires RFID reader to support different communication protocols to be read RFID tags. However to program a particular RFID reader it is important that it is connected to a PDA interface which can help it to change its administration capabilities. (Joshi & Pathak 2009)
The working of any mobile RFID reader cannot be done directly as it is directly integrated onto the motherboard of mobile phone. Any use of the services provided by RFID reader can only be initiated only with the help of mobile phone Operating system. All system calls are generated by the operating system which requests the RFID reader to respond. The RFID reader does not respond to directly with hardware. Mobile Operating systems such as Symbian for Nokia, Mac for apple and Windows for HTC provide functionality for handling RFID reader on their devices. As the kernel of the operating system has control over the operation of RFID reader, it is helpful in ensuring security of the device from unnecessary threats. (Joshi & Pathak 2009)
User Centered Design and Usability Issues play a very important role in implementing a Fire Alert System. This research helps in identifying these key issues and using them in the process of system design. Establishing specific guidelines to approach in resolving these issues have been devised in the process of software development. Design of an interface which could assist users in case of emergencies and ability of the device to alert user is very important. The study of various existing systems has underlined various issues which are a key in building the system. Although different technologies are used in implementing systems such as DeafWatch, the purpose of Fire Alert system is similar. The advantages and disadvantages of existing systems have been mission critical in assisting the current system. The use of RFID middleware architecture to establish communication between different RFID devices such as readers, tags and information system has been helpful in understanding the system. The architecture of middleware has been of great use in developing the proposed prototype.
In terms of choosing an appropriate methodology, the research can be further characterised into three methods. One is quantitative method, second one is qualitative method and the third one is mixed methods of approach. Blaxter, L. et al (2001) said that the most common paradigms that new researcher are introduced to are those termed quantitative and qualitative. The main basic variation among these three methods is the qualitative method presents its information as words, where quantitative method presents the data as numbers and the mixed method approaches these two qualitative and quantitative styles of research to gather information.
The research approach in these methods is as follows:
According to James (2006), Qualitative Research involves analyzing, understanding and accumulating the data by interviews (examine the people what they do and say), pictures, videos and objects (for example a manufactured article). Gathering information takes place in different methods such as by conducting individual interviews in small number of people and or by performing comprehensive group sessions which results in-depth results.
Creswell, J. (1998) described Qualitative research as an inquiry process of understanding based on distinct methodological tradition of inquiry that explores a social or human problem. The researcher builds a complex, holistic picture, analyses words, report details views of information, and conducts the study in a natural setting
According to the Schnell (2001) point of view, qualitative research provides exhaustive information and pure explanation, which helps to researcher to go further in more detail with base-line information. And as well as Muijs (2004) explained the qualitative method as Umbrella-structure because more number of research types are involved in this method such as interviews, participant observation, case studies and ethnographic research.
According to John, B (2005), Qualitative Research involves analysis of numerical data which refers to counts and assess the topics. This includes examine the notorious difficulties which as of testing a theory, numerical analysis and questionnaires.
The general types of Quantitative research are as follows:
- Experiments: characterised by conditions and controls
- Quasi- Experiments
- Surveys: includes interviews and questionnaires, in which interviews takes place for data collection and questionnaires takes place longitudinal and as well as example studies.
As per the Muijs (2004) analysis Quantitative approach is accumulates the numerical data to give explanation for a specific task, along with this the data need not to be in quantitative format to develop a quantitative research. We can go for user's opinion or attitudes by measuring them numerically, for example questionnaire rating scale can be used. Following are few questions based on system (EIS) being developed which are suitable in quantitative analysis (Muijs 2004).
How much are you satisfied with general operation of the software?
To what extent did the system fulfil your requirements?
Mixed Methods Research:
Mixed type research is developed through qualitative research method and is added to research methodology to mix both qualitative and quantitative research methods and its approaches which applies in particular study and or in sequential studies, in which the data can be entailed for accumulation and analysis.
By going through this above discussed methodologies, only qualitative or quantitative is not suitable for this research because the system development is based on conducting both interviews and questionnaire involving end-user's in system development. So, to develop this strategy, use of the both qualitative and quantitative research methods has to be done to get beneficial results in proposed research. Thus the mixed type of research method is being applied for completing this research.
Mixed methodology implementation
The initial stage of this process is to analyse the target population who need be involved in carrying out the research. The target population include people with Complete or Partial Hearing impairment. These targeted people will be approached personally requesting them to participate as volunteers in the development of proposed system. As each and every person is briefed on the nature of proposed research, details such as e-mail id or telephone number are requested for further needs. For safety and security purpose, Privacy will be maintained by mentioning 'Volunteer 1', 'Volunteer 2', 'Volunteer 3', so on as alternative names to their names instead of mentioning their original names.
The process of taking interviews which comprises of questionnaires asking the participants to express their views on the ongoing research as it progresses. Each questionnaire consists of 7 to 8 questions and it is categorised into 4 phases. Each questionnaire follows a different pattern such as Yes or No, Rating on a scale from excellent to too bad or briefly describing their views. These kinds of questions help in analysing the data and come to a conclusion. The four phases in which the interviews takes place are
The target population within this phase involves a four people who belong to a local neighbourhood. The initial phase has questions to assess the knowledge of people with Hearing impairment about the current systems in place to handle Fire alerts. And a few other questions key to get to know their view about what do they expect from such a system which is in place.
- What facilities do you require to address at the time when fire breaks out in a building?
- What facilities do you have at present in this particular situation?
Planned System Phase
This questionnaire primarily describes the proposed system which is being developed to participants who are involved. Then the questionnaire is posed to each of these participants to express their views on the proposed prototype and how useful could it be. This stage helps in sorting out any misleading steps that might have been considered as a part of building the system. This stage has questions of Yes or No type to confront their opinions
- Do you understand what, why and how this system works?
- Do you feel that mobile SMS technology plays effective role in my system?
- Do mobile interface sufficiently helps to alert you in case of fire accidents?
This feedback phase is based on designing questions related to the design stage of system wherein it would be helpful in sorting out any problems at the initial stage rather than getting to know after complete design of the system. These questions are designed to be answered on a rating scale.
Describe your feedback on current system?
Rating the System
The questionnaire at this stage helps in assessing the final system prototype before it is ready to be implemented. This could be helpful in enhancing system design more efficiently before releasing the product. These questions are also designed to be answered on a rating scale.
- Rate how much are you satisfied with my system?
- How do you rate the responding time of this software in terms of receiving Message?
- How do you rate the received alerts, in terms of ability to understand and simplicity?
- How do you rate overall system design and usability?
Software Development Method Implementation
To get advantageous outcomes in developing a prototype for this research both Spiral Model and Prototype Model are adopted. The reasons behind selecting these models are that spiral model creates risk free-driven approach to the software development process and Prototype Model allows the end-users to involve in the development process.
The software prototyping in software development can be used in several ways. A prototype can be defined as an initial version of a software system which can be used to demonstrate concepts and practicing design options. In general, it is used to analyse and know more about the problem and the possible solutions for the problems. It is important to develop a rapid, iterative prototype in order to control the costs and it also allows developers to experiment with the prototype early in software process. The following are the several ways that a prototype can be used in development of software. (Sommerville, 2004)
- A prototype is much useful in validation of system requirements during requirement engineering process.
- The prototype is used to explore specific software solutions and to support user interface design during the system design phase.
- Prototypes are also used to run back-to-back tests with the system that is to be delivered to the client in testing process.
The users can know with the help of system prototypes, how well the system supports their work. The users might describe the strength and weakness areas in the software and may get new thoughts for requirements. The prototypes also used to reduce the user documentation time, and to train the users with system. The main other benefits of using prototypes are,
- System usability is increased.
- The system is very closer match to the users' needs.
- Design quality and maintainability will be improved.
- Development effort will be reduced. (Sommerville, 2004)
The use of information technology in addressing various solutions is growing day to day at a rapid pace. The quality of software system should be at an acceptable level and then only the extensive use of this system will be accepted by users. So, it has become very important to evaluate or to measure the quality of a system even when it is under construction. According to (Gill, 2005) it is very difficult to develop a good software system. We need to consider some measures for software quality to produce a good software product. In managing and controlling software quality, system complexity measurement is very important as it plays a critical role. System complexity influences some of the quality aspects like software reliability, software testability and software maintainability. By keeping new approaches in sight, tool, techniques and methodologies that applicable to software development life cycle, software quality assurance must be addressed.
The prototypes are part of the application system specification and are also improved to produce the application system. According to (Litcher et.al 1994) the term prototyping can be defined as, it is an approach based on evolutionary view of software development, which is capable of affecting the entire software development process. This involves in developing early functioning versions of the application system and testing with them.
Prototyping offers a basis for communication between users and developers in particular and also among the entire group that are involved in the development process. Apart from this, based on the experience and experiments it also helps to implement a standard approach to software development. The major phases in the software development life cycle, i.e. analysis, design and implementation can be influenced by the prototype construction. There are different kinds of prototypes are there like pilot system, presentation prototype, breadboard and prototype proper.
Presentation prototype: This supports the commencement of a software project. If is there any need to establish an explicit deal between the company which develops the software and client, it has got major importance. The presentation prototype is developed to present the main characteristics of user interfaces in most of the cases. This can also be used to convince the customer by specifying the prospects of solutions, in case of any technical solution for the problems is not clear.
Prototype Proper: This kind of prototype is designed to demonstrate and assist the problem in a part of functionality or particular characteristics of user interface. This is used to illustrate a draft version of an operational software system that is developed in the mean time to the information system model.
Breadboard: A chief designed prototype to assist the development team which clarify development related questions often termed as 'breadboard'. This is derived from software requirement specification or information system model. In the evaluation of breadboard, in general users are excluded (Litcher et.al 1994).
Pilot system: A prototype is said to be a pilot system when it is used for both illustrative purposes, and as the core of the application system in the application area. In this prototype, requirements specification, development frame work and goals are to be defined by both users and developers jointly.
The various issues like changes in users specification, implementation of a development goal and changes in the development environment etc, that come up in development of software project can be resolved by building prototypes. One has to decide which sort of prototypes are to be developed, when establishing a prototype for the project. Coming to the quality of all prototypes, all prototypes should not be neglected except demonstration prototypes. The prototypes architecture and fundamental architecture of the predicted application system has to match irrespective of the prototype purpose (Goma, 1986).
Study of the system
Analysing the system is very important to understand functionality of system and break down to help in design process. The Fire Alert System for people with hearing impairment consists of various parameters which require further understanding on how the system works.
RFID Readers are currently installed on every block and some lecture halls within the university. These readers have a range varying from 5-10 meters and as they are installed on the each block. The RFID reader has the power to read any tag within its range and if the tag belongs to its database then the information is stored within the system. If it is out of range it will simply neglect it or sometimes it cannot read it. The RFID reader could actually be placed on each and every room of the campus to identify the user logging in and logging out.
The RFID tags are issued to students with hearing impairment and visitors on the campus. Each RFID tag has two fields to store information about its user. One field stores name and other field stores mobile number. Each tag has an identity which is used by RFID reader to determine it. The RFID tags are passive devices which respond to RFID reader calls. The RFID reader therefore does not require any charge and has a long life.
Fire Alert application
Fire Alert application software controls the flow of data within the system. This software is designed to act as a middleware which controls all other devices such as RFID readers, Internet Connection, Database and SMS service. The RFID readers are connected to the Server through LAN connection which manages the application. The RFID readers upon receiving information from the tag, sends it to the application. The software then uses the tag data to login and logout each and every user. Each RFID reader is recognized based on which block it is present. This continuous monitoring of data will be helpful in keeping track of each and every student residing at different blocks on the campus.
The LAN connection is required to maintain information flow within the Fire Alert application and various RFID readers present on the campus. The LAN connection plays an important role in running of the system. Downtime of a LAN could mess up the whole data.
Administrator manages the Fire Alert application to ensure its service flow smoothly. An administrator has sole right to access the system. Once an administrator logs on to the system, he can edit data of tags and readers. Administrator has to ensure that on an event of a fire breakout, he must notify the users of the service by pressing the Start alarm button on the application interface. The role of an administrator also involves issuing tags to new users and visitors on campus who have hearing impairment.
Each user carries RFID tag with him along all times. The RFID tag can be placed on student id cards in order to ensure that the student does not forget to bring it while he is on campus. It is also the duty of the user to wear mobile phones at all times within campus in order to be alerted by the Fire alert service. The best way to use a mobile phone is to carry it on as a chain.
SMS plays an important role informing users about the fire alert. A free SMS application available on the World Wide Web is freebiesms (www.freebiesms.co.uk). This application helps in sending free SMS to any mobile within the UK. The Fire Alert Service application makes use of this service by registering its administrator. The alerts can be sent to unlimited number of mobiles via this application.
Mobile is an important medium of communication between people with hearing impairment and regular people. Mobile has been selected as a medium of communication as they have become a very common place for human beings. This application alerts user by directly sending SMS to their mobile and not to any other device. Purchasing another device for the sake of safety might become a burden and sometimes they might forget to bring it, which would be fatal. It is very important that these users always have their mobile phones handy and keep them in vibrating mode to be alerted on receiving an SMS. It is also important to keep their mobile phones charging.
The fire alert system application runs successfully with the following specifications.
Login: To run this application, administrator involvement is compulsory as an operator who can be described here as emergency handling administrator. This administrator can be given login details like user name and password to run the application or open the application to go further. This login service is mainly for security purpose to avoid misuse the application in terms of emergency. Thus security must be addressed for this kind of applications.
Blocks: At first the emergency handling administration service has to enter all possible exit directions into the database as per their building structure. Then only the system will allows for further actions to take place, which means system gets active. One more important thing for the organisation or university is: The message which is received by deaf people should be clear, understandable, and not too lengthy and gives accurate information about situation with escaping routs. This means the person should not be panic and confuse about the critical situation.
Users: Once the system get active, the emergency handling administrator has to assign one RFID tag to one deaf person by entering their details like name and mobile number. Each and every personal room in the building has to equip with card readers which are connected to our system database. Once the user enter into the room, the reader reads their tag and their information is going to be saves in database like person name, mobile number, room number, block details in space of log-in. and at the same time if the person leaves the room or our of range with the reader, then the person's details are going to be delete from database as log-out.
Fire Alarm: When fire exists in building, the emergency handling administrator has to click Fire Alarm link, appears in the main screen to send SMS alerts to their mobiles that are already in database as log-in. This message alert contains the information about what happened, what to do and where to go. For example: the message displays in mobile like:
FIRE broke out in this building...!!! Please leave the room, and take right then take second left for an emergency exit.
A computer with basic configuration like 60 GB Hard Disk, 1.7Ghz processor, 256MB RAM can run this application and its functionalities successfully. And as well as this application requires Microsoft Visual Studio and SQL server should be installed in the computer. This application does not use up and drain the computers resources in order to support multitasking.
Basic Structure of the system
The basic structure is nothing but breaking down the system to make it simpler to understand. This basic structure is derived from the RFID middleware architecture. The architecture usually consists of RFID middleware which is thoroughly reconstructed to accommodate the Fire Alert System. Fig 5.1 describes about basic structure of the system.
In the above Figure each RFID reader is considered to be a single block on the university campus. As each and every block has an RFID reader, once a student with an RFID tag enters a particular block the RFID reader reads the tag to send it to the central system. Each tag has many fields within which it stores information related to particular user. The system then assigns a number each time a single RFID tag is read and it keeps incrementing the number each and every time RFID reader reads the tag. Using this counter as a logic the system will be able to login and logout a particular user. An Odd number means that a particular user is logging on and an even number means that particular user is logging out. The System stores information of each tag based on which RFID reader that particular information has been received. This will be helpful in analyzing as to which particular block the user is residing. Once the information is stored with the database it is displayed on an interface for administrator to be able to spot what is going on.
In the event of fire emergency a fire alarm button needs to be pressed by the administrator to send out information to users from where fire alarm has been raised. An emergency message along with its evacuation procedures for every single block is already stored within the system which is sent out to the users. The system needs to connect to the internet to be able to establish connection with the SMS sending service. Upon passing those parameters to SMS service it will immediately dispatch the messages using mobile networks. Using these messages people who are within that particular block where an emergency has been raised follow these procedures to evacuate to a safer place. Once these users are out of the particular block the systems uses the RFID tag to logout automatically.
This technical description of system involves technologies which have been used as a part of System development. These aspects are helpful in understanding the technicality of the system. These technical aspects are
Visual basic is very helpful in designing windows based applications. The design part of the application using Visual Basic .Net helps in building user interface for administrator, setting up permissions to access system, integrating RFID system with application user interface, ability to assign RFID tags to users and administering the system.
SQL Server Database
The SQL Server Database plays a major role in development of this system as it is helpful in designing back end system. The key information relating each and every user and their phone number to be contacted are stored using the RFID tag id. Upon detecting a tag the system requests a service call to identify tag related data and this can be supplied from the SQL server database.
Ability of the application to send SMS alerts their users through a free website (www.freebiesms.co.uk) can be initiated using windows application. This is a point when system needs to be connected to the internet to be able to establish connection to use services of the website. This website requires users to sign up for this service. The application connects to website passing its user name and password as two strings to be able to logon to use this service. Once it establishes connection it uses SQL server database to choose each user and their mobile numbers to send SMS.
Testing and debugging are different set of activities to ensure software reliability during the process of software development. Testing ensures that the system is checked through certain set of procedures to ensure system to be error free. However it is very important that testing only highlights problems and does not do anything to correct them. Whereas, debugging process is undertaken by developers to check for bugs within system code. (Hambling et.al 2006)
The main objectives of testing are
- To check for errors.
- To look out for any changes within the design to be made for efficiency.
- To find errors which are yet to be discovered.
Testing plays an important role in software development. The software was tested for many test cases in order to make it stable and error free. Different types of testing were done according to ISO 9126- 1 as follows
- Portability (Hambling et.al 2006).
Many test cases were made for Black box and White box testing. This came up with several errors which were fixed. In some cases the code had to be rewritten to fix the issues. Most errors I got were due to the wrong input and that's one of the reasons I try to reduce the user inputs and made use of selection boxes. The testing I have done is as follows
Black box Testing
Black box is mainly used to check for any functional errors hence can be called as functional testing. This testing relies on functional requirements specification in order to achieve its test results without even having to go through the structure of the program. In simple words when we run a program by checking on how different data is inputted to influence its results. (Hambling et.al 2006)
White box testing
This is also known as open or clears box testing. The logic of program knowledge is essential in conducting this test. The program logic is checked various errors based on its working. The entire code execution and logic are tested individually. White box testing should include any exception handling carried out by the program. This testing is responsible for code checking and internal logic. (Hambling et.al 2006)
The approach of this research is to focus on the latest available technologies in order to address issues relating to people with Hearing impairment and design a proper prototype which can address those unresolved issues. This research major focus was to implement the system involving users at every stage of development and to be able to get feedback from to bring the desired changes. The people at Sandwell association have been requested to involve in my research. Implementation of any latest technology involves a lot of capital. However this research identifies the need for deploying existing technologies which are already in place and design a prototype. RFID is one such technology which can be used to address wide range of issues.
This technology has been applied considering the fact that it would effectively address the issue and moreover it does not require huge investments as this technology is already in use on the university campus. Sending of mobile alerts via SMS are available for free from www.freebiesms.co.uk which requires user to register. Except for installing the RFID technology, the cost involved in building this system is very less. Maintaining the system however requires an administrator to look after the system and also carry out tasks such as issuing visitors and new users with new RFID tags, updating database and also be responsible for identifying people who are struck in a block and notify to concerned authorities.
The prototype Fire Alert System designed within this research address the University of Wolverhampton which already has RFID technology in place. However, the system can be implemented over many State-of-Art Universities over United Kingdom. This system is designed to be installed only on those organizations which already use RFID technologies.
In Future, further developments to the system might be possible to give more perfection to this system: For more convenience we can develop the system as automatic alerting system which means the system is connecting to general fire alarm service, and when fire broke out in building, the system itself detects the fire alarm signal and sends the alerts to the people who are in database with login status. Here there is no need of an administrator to operate the system.
The system does lack automation as it has to be monitored continuously to be able to react to fire alarm. It would be better if the system could be automatically triggered on the onset of fire alarm and be able to work on its own. Future works include designing the system to be used by wide range of organizations according to their specifications and turning the system into an automated solution.
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