PathoCERT: how technology will control water quality

PathoCERT : comment la technologie va contrôler la qualité de l’eau


In the event of flooding, a rapid rise in the water level is not only a technical challenge for the rescue and emergency services. It also represents a high health risk. 

Flood victims may be infected by bacteria, viruses, spores, fungi and a multitude of micro-organisms. These pathogenic agents maintain their ability to infect and reproduce, even at low temperatures.

To improve their detection in water, a consortium of twenty-three European and South Korean research centers, including the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering in Stuttgart, set up PathoCERT (Pathogen Contamination Emergency Response Technologies) in late October 2020. This major three-year research project is funded by the European Union under the Horizon 2020 program.

PathoCERT is pursuing several goals: developing innovative sensors to detect pathogens; alerting the emergency services of their presence; and analyzing water quality using satellite images and autonomous drones capable of taking samples.

The general idea is to use artificial intelligence to collect data, allowing decisions to be made quickly in the event of a health threat. 

Detecting pathogens in real time

Among the avenues explored by the researchers, gloves, smartwatches or vests equipped with sensors could detect pathogens in real time and send essential information to the emergency services.

In its work, the consortium is prioritizing a user-centered approach, with a battery of questions: What do they need? What would a user interface for smartphones, smartwatches and wearables look like? What information should be sent?

And to ensure that these technologies prove their worth, the project also involves all the participants throughout its development.

Their reactions will be taken into account with interviews, personal data collection, contextual analysis, cognitive walkthroughs, discussion groups, and usability tests. 

PathoCERT technologies will subsequently be tested on the ground as part of five pilot studies in Spain, the Netherlands, Cyprus, Greece, and Bulgaria. 


« New technologies for managing emergencies », Fraunhofer IAO, 8 décembre 2020 -