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Smart powers PH Red Cross-Nokia disaster response solution

PLDT wireless unit Smart Communications will provide high-speed connectivity for a drone system that will help boost the disaster response efforts of the Philippine Red Cross. The drone system, which…

PLDT wireless unit Smart Communications will provide high-speed connectivity for a drone system that will help boost the disaster response efforts of the Philippine Red Cross.

The drone system, which will operate on Smart’s frequencies during times of emergency, is part of Nokia Saving Lives, a program that aims to provide communications technology and technical assistance to emergency response teams.

The initiative was showcased in Barcelona, Spain, at the recent Mobile World Congress organized by GSMA, an organization of nearly 800 operators and more than 300 mobile companies all over the world.

Drone system

The system consists of drones, a portable data center, a mobile broadband network, and applications like video streaming, gas sensing, mapping, and analytics, which can help Red Cross responders assess current status of lifelines and analyze immediate needs and gaps. This will enable Red Cross to provide emergency assistance to communities in more timely, effective and efficient ways.

Using Smart’s high-speed LTE connectivity and Nokia’s portable Ultra Compact Network, the system can also create a secure communication between drones, other equipment, and rescue team members.

The drone can be equipped with different types of cameras, sensors and speakers, and can also be used to carry first aid kits. The portable data center, meanwhile, is a computing and storage unit that can be used for immediate data analysis.

Smart, Red Cross, Nokia

PARTNERSHIP. Representatives of Philippine Red Cross, Smart Communications and Nokia meet for the drone project. From left, PRC disaster response and chapter support unit head Archieval Molos, operations center manager May Carol Layugan, Finnish Red Cross country delegate Juan Daniel Reyes, Smart community partnerships’ Joyce Panaligan and Mary Jane Francisco, PRC disaster management services manager Resty Lou Talamayan, Smart community partnerships senior manager Nova Concepcion, Nokia Philippines chief technology officer Timothy Senathirajah, and Nokia Manila Technology Center’s Lawrence Madriaga and Kenneth Pingca.

Improve emergency response

Nicolas Bouverot, head of market unit Asia South, said: “Nokia is committed to using technology to make people’s lives better. With our Nokia Manila Technology Center, we’re honored to collaborate with Smart and the Philippine Red Cross in this disaster management enhancement project utilizing LTE connected drones in Philippines, helping the country improve emergency response, and save lives.”

“We are happy to be part of this project by providing vital communications support for the operations of the drones. This project is in line with our commitment to deploy tech innovations for the benefit of communities, particularly during times of disasters,” said PLDT and Smart public affairs head Ramon R. Isberto.

Smart is one of the three founding signatories of GSMA’s Human Connectivity Charter. The HCC aims to provide increased access to communication and information of for those affected by calamities, helping reduce loss of lives and contribute to humanitarian response.

Since its launch in 2015, HCC has grown to include over 100 mobile operator members and six humanitarian partners across more than 75 countries.

HCC was launched to enable network operators and industry partners to formalize their commitments to enhance their capacity to mitigate, prepare for, and respond to disasters through mobile technology.

Smart, Red Cross, Nokia

Smart will provide connectivity support to Nokia drones, which will be used by the Philippine Red Cross for their humanitarian efforts.

Disaster preparedness programs

Smart’s disaster preparedness programs were cited in GSMA HCC’s annual report in 2016. These programs include Smart’s Emergency Cell Broadcast System (ECBS), which sends out location- and hazard-specific alerts; its ICT Bayanihan series of regional summits to institutionalize emergency telecommunications teams; and the Batingaw disaster management app, which has been replicated in the Horn of Africa. In 2017, the report said Smart had sent SMS and ECBS disaster alerts to 10 million people.

The company has also been a partner of the Philippine Red Cross for disaster response efforts and blood donation drives. Smart has extended support to Red Cross chapters all over the country on various occasions and in times of calamities by providing communications facilities and helping set up first-aid stations, among other activities.

Smart’s support to the Red Cross and commitment to HCC are part of the company’s #SafePH advocacy, which aims to help build resilient communities and reduce disaster-related casualties through technology. (Press Release)

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Cebu company builds platform for emergency response, management

Helping relatives in Leyte after Typhoon Yolanda wrought its devastation four years ago this month made IT professional Cloyd Dedicatoria realize how woefully unprepared the country was for dealing with…

Helping relatives in Leyte after Typhoon Yolanda wrought its devastation four years ago this month made IT professional Cloyd Dedicatoria realize how woefully unprepared the country was for dealing with widescale devastation and emergencies.

Dedicatoria, founder and chief executive officer of Sugbotek, drove to Leyte with a family member to bring food, water and other supplies needed by relatives. He said government response shocked him. There was disorder to the point looting “became normal.” Relief goods were not immediately distributed because of problems in managing distribution, he said.

A response team from the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority arrived seven days after Yolanda hit and just as Dedicatoria was heading back to Cebu. The team was delayed after getting stranded.

Response coordination

“I think the problem is the coordination. How we can set up a communication system nga ma usa ta ni, ma integrate ta ni,” Dedicatoria said in an interview on Monday.

What he saw in the response to Yolanda made him think about setting up a system that will integrate disaster response and management, he said.

When the officials of 7core Communications Inc., the hardware and connectivity company that he is a part of, were planning company initiatives for 2014, he proposed spinning off a software unit to build, among other things, a system for emergency response and management.

During the Kadaugan sa Mactan in April of 2014, Dedicatoria and his team set up a command center to manage and monitor peace and order during the annual festival. In Sinulog 2015, they created a friend finder app.

Guardian Cloyd Bere Dedicatoria

EMERGENCY RESPONSE. Cloyd Bere Dedicatoria, founder and CEO of Sugbotek, talks about the Guardian app and system that seeks to be a platform for emergency response and management.

Emergency response, management

In the coming weeks, Dedicatoria and his team will test the deployment of an emergency response and management system informed by his Yolanda experience. The Guardian app and system will be deployed in an initial group of four Cebu City barangays – Apas, Tisa, Sto. Niño, and Poblacion Pardo.

Guardian is more than just an app – it is a system that links citizens, government agencies that deal with emergencies, first responders, and volunteers.

Guardian has two versions of its app, one for responders and another for volunteers. The team is still working on the apps and will be making these available on Google Play and the Apple App Store.

Report incidents

Through the app, citizens can report incidents such as a fire, crime, or medical emergency with just one tap on the app. That report will be received and processed by a Guardian command center. Using technology and algorithms, the command center will then forward the report to the appropriate agency.

Using internet connectivity, algorithms, and other tech, Guardian makes emergency reporting and response simple, Dedicatoria said.

The Guardian ecosystem also simplifies volunteering and the deployment of volunteers. This, he said during the interview, was added because of what they observed during the Yolanda response – many wanted to volunteer but there wasn’t a system that facilitated sign-ups and managed deployment.

Strict vetting of volunteers

Dedicatoria said volunteers will be added into the system after a strict vetting that includes clearance from the barangay and other government units, submission of identification papers, and personal appearance. Once added into the system, volunteers can be deployed to help deal with an emergency.

When asked about vulnerability of the system to prank reports – a frequent problem of phone-based systems as reported by police, Dedicatoria said this wasn’t an issue. They get a lot of information from reports – including location and the machine identification of phones – that they can trace those who use the app to send prank reports.

The Guardian team is already looking ahead and beyond the current capabilities being deployed. Dedicatoria said they are working on a system that will use TV white space to make sure there is still connectivity even if the telecommunications infrastructure is down. This is another lesson he learned from Yolanda.

Deployment for LGUs

The Guardian team and the four barangays are still awaiting donated computer units from a utility company before the initial deployment will start. Barangays, Dedicatoria said, will serve as incident centers that will receive the initial report. The barangay unit can be as minimal as just two manned computers, one to serve as call taker, the other as dispatcher.

Guardian is talking to several local government units, including the Cebu Provincial Government, for a possible province-wide deployment of the system.

The system is free to deploy – the LGU, however, will need to spend for equipment that will be used for it. If a barangay is interested to use Guardian, Dedicatoria said, they can just sign up and if they already have computer units with internet connectivity, they can immediately tap the system.

Barangays without computers and internet connectivity can just sign up for a monthly subscription that will come with computer units, connectivity and enable them to tap Guardian, Dedicatoria said.

The system, he added, is extensible and can be deployed not only for government agencies but as an enterprise solution for companies like utilities. This, he said, will be a paid service that can help support the free deployment in barangays and other government units.

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