The Daily Prosper
Technology, a lifesaver in natural disasters

Technology, a lifesaver in natural disasters

Climate change is undeniable. Its ever remarkable and devastating effects, have quadrupled in these last four decades. According to the United Nations, in the last ten years, natural catastrophes have caused 700,000 deaths and have cost 1.7 trillion dollars, which has triggered all the alarms for urgent measures to be taken to alleviate their effects globally, and naturally the most innovative technology is placed at its service.

The past 2016 was the worst of the last six years, from a human and economic perspective, due to natural disasters. Volcanic activity, earthquakes, droughts (the most pressing problem in Spain), forest fires, floods, ... are occurring more and more throughout the entire planet, bringing climate change to the forefront of the international agenda.

Analysts, geologists, climatologists, ... experts of all kinds are working to minimize the consequences of these catastrophes, but they are not alone. The latest technological advances join them. On the one hand, the most necessary optimization of measurement instruments is improving risk assessment as never before. The exchange of information, the early warnings, and the improvement of engineering in the urban plans are managing to mitigate the devastating effects of nature, while becoming an aid to the population, and facilitating the humanitarian work once the episode has occurred.

I-REACT: the European response

This platform is created with a very clear objective, to be the most efficient response to natural emergencies in the continent. As an integrating point of avant-garde European technologies, it collects the most accurate information and analyses it in real time.

Thanks to the data collected from nine countries, twenty partners and twelve companies, as well as all the information provided by drones and satellites, and state-of-the-art technological material, the I-REACT allows reaction to episodes caused by natural disasters in the most effective possible way.

Information from past incidents, real-time reports, weather forecasts and satellite data generate accurate and connected maps for disaster prediction. After the episode, the response of the I-REACT focuses on drones, mobile phones, geolocation devices and augmented reality glasses that receive and transmit information from the affected area to the emergency centre.

But the most cutting-edge technology is not the only ally. Social networks also stand as a basic pillar of the project. Thanks to an application, the platform massively alerts the public with real time instructions on what to do in the face of the catastrophe that is happening.

"If we do not brake climate change, technology at least aims to help us palliate its consequences"

"If we do not brake climate change, technology at least aims to help us palliate its consequences"

Social and mobile reactions, the best help

The European Union is not alone in using social networks as a means of disseminating a natural disaster. In fact, the social platforms have become an essential means of communication and a source of information in the aftermath of a crisis.

After the earthquake in Haiti and the tsunami in Japan, these became basic tools for the surviving population. Supported by geolocation information, artificial intelligence and online maps, they expanded the meaning of the messages to give them an incalculable value that saves lives.

The fact is the mobile can become our best ally in the face of a natural disaster. The Trilogy Emergency Relief Application (Tera)  is a mass text messaging application that the Red Cross is implementan in more than 40 countries, following its success in Haiti. This technology identifies mobile devices in a specific area and sends them massive messages with basic information about where medical services or drinking water are available.

At the same time, the Tera project makes it easier for victims to indicate where they are and what they urgently need. It also allows it to be known where the missing people whose mobile signal is perceived are located, which is all basic information in the collapses produced by this kind of episodes.

Connectivity saves lives

In fact, these experiences have shown that connectivity is so fundamental after a disaster situation that efforts are being directed towards applications that re-establish communications in their aftermath. Google is leading the way, with its Loon project, which aims to connect hard to reach places through high-altitude balloons.

But there are many more. Devices of the size of a box that offer connection, mass mobile chargers, something essential in refugee camps, or lanterns powered by solar energy and connected to chargers, for all types of devices, are some examples.

Connectivity is as important as the oxygen we breathe. And if this fails, so will any project based on it. For this reason, innovation is also directed towards technological development that allows mobile phones to communicate directly with each other, even when there is no coverage because the network has crashed, something very common after a catastrophe.

In this sense, the Serval project is an application that allows mobile phones to communicate with each other without the need for coverage. Through a network of users, known as a "mesh network", they can call, send messages and files to others close to them.

Because many times, a message or a signal on the mobile can make the difference between life and death after a natural disaster.