How AR technology could transform flood risk understanding and build resilience in the face of climate change



Communities affected by flooding, and agencies responsible for managing flood risk, have had a first look at new Augmented Reality (AR) technology which shows the extent of future flood risk in their neighbourhoods.

The show-and-tell technology is being developed by geographers at LJMU and GeoSmart Information Ltd, who claim that the better-informed communities are, the more they can prepare for and respond to instances of flooding.

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Climate predictions and lack of understanding

More severe and frequent flooding is one of the main challenges that the UK faces as a result of the changing climate, and this is a particular vulnerability for communities in the North West of England. How communities respond and react to this on-going challenge relies on their understanding of the risk to begin with.

At present very few people, estimated to be as low as 7% of the UK population, know and understand the flood risk associated with their own home and the potentially devastating long-term consequences flooding can have.

That is where effective visualisation, or mapping, is key to building personal and collective resilience that will ultimately shape the most appropriate local responses.     

Co-creation at the heart of the project

In order to support communities and to build their understanding of the realities of flood risk, Dr Sarah Percival, a Senior Lecturer in Geography (coastal resilience) within the School of Biological and Environmental Sciences, is spearheading the project to co-create better 2D and 3D flood risk visualisations for use by members of the public and statutory bodies alike.

Working with former LJMU lecturer, Dr Ian Walkington, who is now a research manager for Geosmart Information Ltd., the duo showcased their AR mapping technology at this month’s Flood Expo in Birmingham, using the opportunity to trial and evaluate the effectiveness of the visualisations.

Dr Percival said: “A crucial element of this project is to ensure that the people who are impacted most by flooding are at the heart of its development. That means creating mapping tools that everyone, be that a resident or a professional agency, can understand and which they can use to enhance their own resilience plans. Flood Expo afforded us a fantastic opportunity to do just that, and to test the preliminary visualisations we have developed.

“The feedback we obtained through the survey we conducted at the expo was really encouraging, but it also indicated where changes need to be made and elements that need to be further developed.”  

Building resilient communities

The results obtained at the expo will drive alterations to the visuals and models used to create them, and the redeveloped visuals will be re-tested in focus groups with new participants, including final year LJMU Geography and Climate Change students in early 2023.

This research is part of an LJMU funded movement to establish a permanent Flood Resilience Hub at LJMU that would in part raise awareness and understanding of flood risk and push forward research opportunities in the wider fight to combat the impacts of climate change.

Award-winning

The research to date was also acknowledged with an Excellence in Innovation Award from the Flood Expo.

The Excellence in Innovation Awards celebrate the most innovative products, services or technologies that are making a positive impact on the flood management sector.

About the academics

Since 2005 Dr Percival’s research and teachings have focused on the assessment and communication of disaster vulnerability, resilience, and risk, especially for flood hazards. With expertise and interests in both quantitative and qualitative hazard associated data interpretation, Dr Percival uses her findings to come up with effective solutions for key societal challenges, such as embedding flood resilience within vulnerable communities.

Dr Walkington has over two decades experience of working in fluid dynamics and computer modelling.


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