Lausanne, Geneva and Zurich, January 27, 2022–Switzerland’s two Federal Institutes of Technology, ETH Zurich and EPFL, along with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), announce the launch of several new collaborative research projects to develop innovative solutions for humanitarian action.

The awarded projects address a range of issues currently faced by the ICRC and other humanitarian organizations in the field. Aimed more specifically at supporting people affected by conflict, the promising solutions range from using computer vision techniques that predict 2D facial images that can help identify human remains, to the use of satellite imagery to monitor armed conflicts. They have been selected through the second Humanitarian Action Challenges (HAC) call for proposals, an initiative of the Engineering Humanitarian Action Partnership (EHA) between ETH Zurich, EPFL and the ICRC.

A total of six projects have been selected, two of which will be carried out by ETH Zurich researchers and four by EPFL researchers. Combined with the projects that emerged from HAC’s first round in 2020, 12 collaborative projects are now developing effective solutions for a greater impact in humanitarian action.

Dr. Sandro Saitta, who is based at the Swiss Data Science Center, a joint venture of ETH Zurich and EPFL, leads a project aimed at better understanding the behavior of armed groups through the use of open-source data, quantitative measures of conflict intensity and automated, machine-based event analysis. Dr. Amir Zamir of EPFL’s Visual Intelligence and Learning Lab will use recent computer vision techniques to help identify human remains that cannot be traced back to their families. The project led by EPFL’s Prof. Bryan Ford of the Decentralized and Distributed Systems Lab aims to design privacy-preserving digital identity and wallet technology intended to guide the future extension of ICRC’s platform supporting digital payments.

The fourth EPFL project will demonstrate the field applicability of the innovative Agilis prosthetic foot. Prof. Kamiar Aminian of the Laboratory of Movement Analysis and Measurement will use wearable inertial sensors that will collect patients’ movement data to identify how the prosthesis improves quality of life for users. The Agilis foot was developed by a coalition of EPFL labs and the EPFL EssentialTech Centre. It will soon be marketed through Rehab’Impulse, a social enterprise created by the ICRC.

On the ETH Zurich portfolio, Prof. Konrad Schindler and Prof. Jan Wegner from the EcoVision Lab , and Dr. Valerie Sticher from the Center for Security Studies (CSS) join forces to devise an automated monitoring tool that uses deep learning with open-source satellite images to allow the ICRC to monitor armed conflicts in near-real-time. The project led by Prof. Guillaume Habert from the Chair of Sustainable Construction aims to support the ICRC with assessing and improving the resilience of health infrastructure to prioritize interventions and enhance health service outcomes in the short and long term.

Engineering for Humanitarian Action is a partnership between ETH Zurich, EPFL and the ICRC – all equally committed to jointly leveraging research and innovation to address the most pressing challenges of our time. At the operational level, it is managed by the EPFL EssentialTech Centre and ETH4D.

More information on the projects can be found here.

Photo: ICRC

Published On: January 26th, 2022 / Categories: blog posts, News /