CERTH Experts: “Cooperation across EU Countries is Paramount in the Face of Interconnected Security Threats”

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A special interview with Greek experts George Kalpakis and Klearchos Stavrothanasopoulos from the Centre for Research and Technology (CERTH) for the PRECRISIS Project newsletter.

 What does CERTH do and what are its key domains of operation?

The Centre for Research and Technology (CERTH) is a prominent technology and innovation research centre that operates across various domains. We operate five research institutes and they cover a myriad of fields such as: multimedia analysis and retrieval, Artificial Intelligence (AI), natural language processing, computer vision, multimodal analytics and data fusion, data mining, big data analysis, advanced robotic systems, the internet of things, Industry 4.0, precision medicine, holistic health nutrition, autonomous vehicles, driving simulators, traffic control hubs, smart cities, low/zero CO2 emission technologies, green hydrogen, climate change, precision agriculture, agro-robotics and circular economy…

The team that is directly involved in PRECRISIS is part of the Information Technologies Institute/ITI, namely Multimodal Data Fusion and Analytics Group (M4D), part of the Multimedia Knowledge and Social Media Analytics Lab (MKLab). Our experts possess extensive research experience in the fields of AI, Multimedia Analysis and Retrieval, Natural Language Processing, Computer Vision, Multimodal Analytics and Data Fusion, Data Mining, and Big data. ITI-CERTH is committed to pushing the boundaries of technological innovation and addressing global challenges. To this end, we collaborate with the whole spectrum of stakeholders to drive positive societal impact through its research and development efforts.

Why is ITI-CERTH participating in the PRECRISIS project, what benefits do you expect for your organisation by being involved in this EU-funded initiative?

ITI-CERTH’s participation in the PRECRISIS project is driven by our commitment to research and innovation in addressing challenges related to the protection of public spaces in the context of fighting crime and terrorism. The decision to engage in EU-funded initiatives like PRECRISIS comes with several anticipated benefits:

  • Research excellence: Participation in EU-funded projects allows ITI-CERTH to contribute to cutting-edge research and innovation in the field of the protection of public spaces. It provides an opportunity to demonstrate our expertise and contribute to the development of novel solutions.
  • Collaboration and networking: EU-funded projects often involve collaboration with a diverse range of partners from multiple disciplines, including end-users and domain experts from law enforcement, academic and research institutions, industry, and public bodies. This collaborative environment fosters networking opportunities, enabling ITI-CERTH to exchange ideas, share expertise, and build valuable partnerships.
  • Policy influence: As an active participant in EU-funded projects, ITI-CERTH has the opportunity to contribute to shaping policies and strategies related to the protection of public spaces at the European level. This involvement allows us to have a direct impact on the development of frameworks and guidelines in this critical area.

 What other EU projects does ITI-CERTH have in its portfolio? 

We at ITI-CERTH have participated in more than one hundred ongoing and past European projects with important responsibilities such as coordinator, scientific and technical manager, and leading roles in work packages and tasks. Our engagement has been in domains such as safety and security, protection of critical infrastructure, fight against crime and terrorism, disaster resilience, cybersecurity, and border security. Noteworthy projects, closely related to PRECRISIS, include the H2020-funded PREVISION, CONNEXIONs, CREST, and APPRAISE. PREVISION aimed on providing LEAs with advanced analytical support for multiple big data streams and assisting investigators to better address hybrid security threats. In the same vein, CONNEXIONs featured the development of next-generation detection, prediction, prevention, and investigation services. CREST, a follow-up project to CONNEXIONs, had the objective of improving the efficiency of LEAs’ intelligence, operation, and investigation capabilities. The goal of APPRAISE was to improve both the cyber and physical security and safety of public spaces through big data analysis and AI.

CERTH is in charge of specific research and technology tasks in PRECRISIS, specifically the Platform. What will this Platform look like?

The PRECRISIS Platform will integrate key technologies to identify vulnerabilities in public spaces related to terrorist attacks or violent incidents. The Platform will be composed of the following four layers:

 Urban layer: This layer aims to inform LEAs, first responders, and local authorities about vulnerabilities in public spaces, facilitating the adoption of preventive measures against terrorism and severe violence. Utilising AI-driven tools, this layer identifies environmental design factors and spatial structures influencing potential locations for terrorist attacks or violent crimes.

  • Human dynamics layer: This layer will assess potential terrorist threats or violent acts in specific urban environments through visual analysis of scenes and diverse visual data streams. A data-driven approach will be employed for learning crowd movement patterns in normal and emergency situations.
  • Perceptions layer: This layer will automatically and comparatively measure citizens’ perception of terrorism and violence in public spaces, enhancing threat prevention and emergency response capabilities. Using innovative NLP techniques on social media data and computer vision deep learning algorithms, the system detects safety perceptions and feelings.
  • Counter-action layer: This layer will serve a dual purpose in the platform. Firstly, effective strategies will be formulated for implementing environmental security measures in public spaces using insights from simulations in the Human Dynamics layer, and input from the Urban and Perceptions layers. Secondly, the communication strategies of LEAs, first responders, and local authorities will be enhanced through advanced natural language generation and persuasive communication techniques.

ITI-CERTH leads the task related the Perceptions layer, focusing on the creation of tools for crowd behaviour analysis, particularly for the detection of panic and violent events. We will also contribute to the Human dynamics layer by providing a solution for sentiment analysis of Greek textual content related to the of citizens’ reactions to terrorist or violent attacks, as well as responses to security environmental interventions adopted to prevent, mitigate, control and recover from such attacks.

What will be the PRECRISIS Platform’s benefit, and what challenges along the way do you anticipate?

The PRECRISIS Platform is expected to offer several benefits in the context of the protection of public urban spaces. First and foremost, it will provide LEAs, first-responders, policy makers and local authorities with risk management tools of public spaces and the identification of specific vulnerabilities, as well as the more effective execution of operations through intelligence gathering. The Platform will promote the enhanced situational awareness by consolidating and analysing data from diverse sources, providing stakeholders with a real-time understanding of the situation. This contributes to faster decision-making, a crucial aspect during a terrorist or violent act, where timely and accurate information can significantly impact outcomes. The Platform will facilitate improved resource allocation by offering insights into the most affected areas, aiding authorities in optimising resource distribution. The Platform’s user-friendly interface will ensure accessibility for diverse users.

Anticipating and addressing challenges is crucial for the successful development and implementation of the PRECRISIS Platform. Integrating data from diverse sources poses a significant hurdle, demanding meticulous attention to data accuracy, reliability, and compatibility. Privacy and security concerns are paramount when handling sensitive information during a terrorist attack or violent crime threat, necessitating robust safeguards and compliance with privacy regulations. Ensuring scalability is also important, requiring the design of a system capable of adapting to varying levels of such situations. Additionally, ongoing technological and infrastructure challenges will require for the platform to be adapted constantly to remain up to date. A collaborative approach, incorporating expertise in technology, ethics, and data governance, along with regular testing, feedback loops, and continuous improvements, will be essential for overcoming these challenges.

In PRECRISIS, ITI-CERTH will be working in cooperation with the Bruno Kessler Foundation (FBK), the Italian partner. What are your expectations from this collaboration?

 CERTH and FBK will collaborate to develop the Human dynamics layer of the PRECRISIS Platform, employing cutting-edge Computer Vision solutions to model crowd behaviours in response to terrorist or violent threats, and to detect anomalous behaviours in public spaces. Additionally, both partners will join their expertise to deliver the Perceptions layer, implementing technologies for the automatic collection and analysis of citizens’ perception of terrorism threats, as well as for the detection of safety perceptions, citizens’ feelings and reactions, based on the textual content covering different languages (e.g., English, Italian, Greek). Moreover, this collaboration brings a cross-cultural dimension to the technical aspect of the project. We should also mention the networking opportunities for both partners. Finally, through this collaboration, CERTH and FBK can jointly disseminate the project’s technical results and findings to broader audiences.

From your perspective, how safe are Europe’s public spaces, and how can the most critical vulnerabilities be addressed?

Ensuring the safety of public spaces is a complex task influenced by numerous factors, encompassing crime prevention, emergency readiness, and counterterrorism measures. The risk levels faced by different European regions and cities vary based on population density, geopolitical considerations, and historical context. Addressing critical vulnerabilities requires comprehensive risk assessments, advanced privacy-aware surveillance technologies, community engagement, and incorporation of safety considerations into urban planning. Additionally, embracing technological solutions such as AI-based visual and textual analysis, fully compliant with EU legislation and regulations on ethics including personal data protection, can enhance security efforts whilst meeting privacy and ethical aspects. International cooperation is paramount in the face of interconnected security threats, emphasising the need for information sharing and coordinated efforts among European countries. Continual adaptation of strategies based on evolving threats, regular reviews of security protocols, and investments in technology and personnel training are essential for maintaining and improving public space safety.

George Kalpakis

Senior Research Associate

George Kalpakis is a Senior Research Associate at ITI-CERTH. His research interests focus on Graph Theory and Data Mining based on AI technologies, including social network analysis, as well as Web and social media search and mining for security applications. He has co-authored a number of publications in refereed journals and international conferences and has also translated several computer science academic books in Greek. He participates in several EU projects in the domain of civil security. George received the Degree in Applied Informatics and the MSc in Computer Systems in Applied Informatics from the University of Macedonia, in Greece

Klearchos Stavrothanasopoulos

Research Associate

Klearchos Stavrothanasopoulos is a Research Associate at ITI-CERTH and contributes to various European projects in the domain of public spaces security and environmental crime. His expertise and research interests lie on the Computer Vision field, focusing on Object Detection, Classification, Semantic / Instance Segmentation, Scene Recognition, Activity Recognition and Crowd Analysis. He has co-authored publications for international conferences and scientific journals. Klearchos holds an Electrical and Computer Engineering Degree from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and an MSc in Data Science from International Hellenic University.


Founded in 2000 in Greece, the Centre for Research and Technology (CERTH) is a leading tech and innovation research organisation that brings together the talent and dedication of more than 1,500 staff – engineers and scientists. CERTH participates in the PRECRISIS project through its Information Technologies Institute/ITI – a founding member of CERTH and one of the leading institutions in Greece in the fields of informatics, telematics and telecommunications. In addition to ITI, CERTH operates four other thematic institutes, including the Institute of Applied Biosciences – INAB, the Hellenic Institute of Transport – HIT, the Chemical Process & Energy Resources Institute – CPERI, and the Bio-economy and Agro-Technology Institute – IBO.

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