While many people are aware of the terrible impact of disasters throughout the world, few realize that this is a problem that we can do something about.
Kofi A. Annan
United Nations experts believe that governments around the world must work together to build early-warning systems from natural disasters like the Indian Ocean tsunami, reports ComputerWorld.
Tsunami warning systems will be a key topic at the long-planned World Conference on Disaster Reduction on Jan. 18-22 in Kobe, Japan, the site of a massive earthquake in January 1995 that killed more than 6,400 people.
“The international community has to move ahead and build global systems to avoid a repeat of what has happened in Asia this week,” Reid Basher of the UN’s Platform for the Promotion of Early Warning in Bonn told Reuters. The conference “is expected to prompt a quantum leap in learning and commitment for improving prevention, risk assessment and early-warning systems,” a statement from the ISDR secretariat in Geneva said.
A John Schwartz article in the New York Times raises the possibility of using SMS to create a warning system for disaster notification. The article mentions a Web log (desimediabitch.blogspot.com) that often posts text messages. “This tragedy is going to put this more to the forefront,” said Greg Wilfahrt, cofounder of SMS.ac, a company that sells text message services in more than 170 countries.
Science Friday’s 2nd hour explains details of Tsunami detection and prediction with an expert from Seattle’s Pacific Marine Environmental Lab (PMEL). The Deep Ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis (DART) is a real-time tsunami buoy system comprised of two parts; a bottom pressure recorder (BPR) and the surface buoy with related electronics.
The Alert Retrieval Cache (ARC) project plans to use SMS to save people’s lives, according to Boing, Boing. It will collect, sort, and route SMS messages for the puposes of Tsunami alerts and relay communication. All the people relevant to that message can receive it, instantaneously (example).
The failure of state-owned and hierarchical warning systems to alert us about the South Asia earthquake & tsunami, despite prior information has put into focus issues of forums for information exchange. What we need is to get credible, real time information from the grassroots to save lives.
How does it work? Here’s a scenario – Morquendi is a relief worker in Middle Earth, and he runs short of medical supplies, specifically antibiotics. The supplies are needed immediately. He needs to inform someone from his location. He sends out an SMS to ARC.
The Sorter program looks for similar keywords in the cache, as in Morquendi’s message. After the program is done sorting, it links this message to all those numbers that are attached to similar attributes as in Morquendi’s original message. Then it flashes this message to all these numbers. People in the vicinity, and anyone across the world who is awake, or knows Morquendi, receives the message.
Iconoclast Bob Cringely, has his own thoughts on what should be done:
We don’t need governments and huge sensor arrays to warn people on the beach about the next huge wave approaching at 400 miles-per-hour. Thanks to the Internet, we can probably do it by ourselves.
Here’s the problem with big multi-government warning systems. First, we have a disaster. Then, we have a conference on the disaster, then plans are proposed, money is appropriated, and three to five years later, a test system is ready.
We can’t rely on governments to do this kind of work anymore. They just take too darned long and spend too much money for what you get.
The Tsunami Warning System (TWS) in the Pacific Ocean shows us how such a warning system can be run with the cooperation of 26 countries. TWS is based on crunching two kinds of data — seismic activity and changes in sea level measured by tide gauges.
Depending on where the originating earthquake is, the tsunami can be minutes or hours from crashing into a beach. This week’s wave took about 90 minutes to reach Sri Lanka, just over 600 miles from the epicenter.
Looking just like a TV weather map, the widget would flash a warning and even include a countdown timer just like in the movies.
You don’t need an international consortium to build such a local tsunami warning system. You don’t even need broadband. The data is available, processing power is abundant and cheap.
Bob Cringely is a good writer. Of course he’s no geologist (nor am I).
Still, a giant 9.0 tsunami is due on the west coast. And bureaucracies will be bureaucracies. They won’t do anything until funding is available (in 1-2 years).
The FCC s Emergency Alert System is coming to cell phones. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) has fallen into disarray and needs major reform, concluded FCC Chairman Michael Powell recently as he announced agency plans to revamp the system, according to a report in Broadcasting and Cable. Featured would be instant alerts transmitted via a sophisticated new EAS that could beam warnings about crises from local TV and radio stations to TVs, radios, personal computers and an array of digital devices — including cell phones and PDAs.
Seventy outdoor sirens are strategically placed in the emergency response zones surrounding the Umatilla Chemical Depot. Homes and businesses in Hermiston, Umatilla, Stanfield, Echo, Irrigon and Boardman (Oregon) have been provided a free special indoor warning device called a Tone Alert Radio (TAR). In addition to providing warning and emergency instructions for a chemical emergency, TARs can provide weather alerts from the National Weather Service. The Amber Alert System is America s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response and may have elements that might be utilized in Tsunami warning systems.
The MediaCast System is used by retailers to provide “Instant Digital Signage”. Messages are sent over Verizon’s cellular network to a flash card and displayed on the sign’s flat screen.
Maybe Intel and schools around my region could develop a system to monitor Mount St Helens utilizing an RSS feed, an audio podcast announcement, and a pop-up map. Maybe something like a multi-media access point with a touch screen could show maps. Perhaps a pager or a $99 instant messaging appliance could trigger pre-recorded audio announcements. Independent of cellular networks. By May of 2005.
RAINS-Net, the Regional Alliances for Infrastructure and Network Security, might be one solution. It provides automated alerts from the 911 emergency centers and relays messages to authorized personel in schools, hospitals and downtown building managers. Or the general public, if need be.
Private cellular emergency services are also available. You can sign up now to get emergency messages sent to your phone from local, regional and national government sources. AlertsUSA delivers terrorism-related information via wireless audio streaming and SMS alerts to cell phone users for $2.99 per month.
WorldSpace (left), a pioneer of direct satellite delivery for digital audio radio services (DARS), demonstrated Data-casting and IP Multicasting capabilities at the Global Military Satellite Communications Conference recently.
WorldSpace leverages its two geo-stationary satellites, AfriStar and AsiaStar, and its ownership of broad spectrum licenses to deliver more than 100 digital quality audio channels per satellite as well as multimedia content directly to portable receivers.
After launching XM Satellite Radio’s wearable MyFi device ($350) in October, XM CEO Hugh Panero said he believed one day a portable satellite player would be combined with a device like an iPod.
Firsthand accounts and videos of the tsunami disaster and its aftermath have flourished, giving Internet users near-instant replays of events that happened in faraway countries. The BBC created message boards on its news Web site where hundreds of people have published appeals for information about their relatives. CNN News did the same.
Waves of hope is a non profit weblog run by volunteer reporters, writers and citizens from all over Sri Lanka. Tsunamihelp.blogspot.com provides information direct from the disaster.
Location-Based Services such as mobile games, child tracking, social networking and other services will be on this train. Location service providers for cellular networks include Adesso Systems, Aeroscout, Enpocket, F-Secure, Intellisync, Tatara Systems, Sproqit Technologies, MapQuest and Xora to name a few.
But Localized Handheld Content can be free — like Dayton’s ad-supported cloud. Publically accessible from Kiosks. A commercial medium with an emergency alert override. What’s wrong with that? Everyone benefits.
Drop historic photos into PhotoStory and add narration. Every hot spot can have unique content available via spashpage. Just look around. Tell the story.
NewsBreak (right), a Pocket PC application, can access “podcasts” (recent feeds) of international or local news. In your neighborhood. On your block. It uses whatever wireless connectivity you have available including WiFi, Bluetooth, and cellular connections. Anyone can provide an RSS feed with audio or video enclosures. For practically nothin’. Audio makes sense for handhelds. WebJay it.
Spash pages, handhelds and public kiosks could include scripts for an emergency alert override. Audio messages and maps specific to each location could automatically pop-up when a trigger code is received.
Sputnik can manage hundreds of $200 Access Points and can customize splash pages for each one. Add a WiFi hard drive. It could cost less then an outdoor sign and might be funded by local businesses. At no cost to taxpayers.
This revolution is unstoppable.
Local hotspots might use a $400 touchscreen with a $500 laptop, a $200 WiMax backbone and a $150 wireless netcam to provide local content and global connectivity. It could make money.
Scripting tools like Konfabulator and open source tools like Open GIS, Google Wireless, Yahoo Mobile and a million creative minds will energize the “free” cloud into a crackling powerhouse. Video Blog TV Channels and MobileTV via DVB-H are GOING to happen. WiFi/WiMax networks will bust out of the walled prison.
Blogging Tools like Blogger, Text America, Nokia’s LifeBlog and Podcasting have come of age. Citizen reporters/responders may be the wave of the future. But few are trained. No plan is in place.
Perhaps 2-3 WiFi/Cell handhelds with megapixel cameras ($500) similar to the ASUS WiFi PocketPC should be available at every community center, school, library and fire station. They provide still image capture, video capture and video playback. Anyone could cover local events – and help in emergencies. Download floor plans. Upload photos or video clips. It’s not glamorous; broadband handhelds are muddy, utilitarian technology, initially using WiFi, but ideally using 700MHz. Get used to it.
Combine WiFi/Cellular handhelds with eGig’s 120GB Network Attached Storage/WiFi access point (right) on dozens of school and fire station rooftops. Backbone with WiMax to hilltop satellite access points. A turnkey package with a local 120Gig Access Point, a WiMax client backbone, and 3 WiFi/Cellphones ($500 each), might cost less than one Project 25 two-way radio ($2500).
Local governments are mis-guided when they take their marching orders from telecommunications lobbyists like Verizon or Motorola. A WiMax cloud for broadband interoperability could make all the difference. Saving time. Saving lives. Saving money. Creating a new economy.
Related DailyWireless stories include; Tsunami Monitoring, Neighbor Node, Revolution in Mobile Services, Radio Station in a Box, Al Gore’s WebLog TV Channel, Blogger is the Story, Portland Online Vrs The Bloggers, Selling Out DTV, Tsunami Monitoring, Monitoring Mount St Helens, Oceanographic Dead Zone, Subducting the Zone, West Coast Grid, Grid Becomes Self-Aware, Just Say No, Sensor Nets, Meshing at Intel, Oceanographic Wireless, WiFi At Sea, Spying on the Ocean, and Earthquake Monitoring.
Additional DailyWireless articles include Earthquake First Responders, Hurricane Frances Lineworkers, Hurricane Help, ISP in a trailer, Mobile COWS, Tagging Photos with GPS, Blogging On The Road, Video Blogging, War Blogging Comes Home, Tachyon & Datastorm Satellite News, and Wireless Priority Service Worked.