CrisisCommunicator – Support an Open Source Disaster Communication Tool
The CrisisCommunicator in a Nut Shell
The CrisisCommunicator is a blueprint for a comprehensive tool that will leverage today’s mobile computing technology (think: tablets) and disaster communication modalities (think: radio) to aid disaster responders in streamlining their response.
It is being designed to work with zero internet connectivity. For the non-technical person, this is best described as google maps, with live updates, on your tablet, even with no internet. For the computer techie, think of it as a swarm of nodes on a broad-cast only network. For the Amateur Radio Enthusiast, think of it as Xastir, with some additional features, re-built native on Android.
In 2014 I received a grant from Almi, a Swedish early-stage development funding agency. This helps, but it is not enough! That’s why I’m asking YOU to contribute towards this project.
Some Background, Please!
In 2004, we were living in Kerala, India, when the Asian Tsunami struck. Where we were was the worst-hit part of the western seaboard of India. In our area, the cell phone towers were still operational, but were useless for the disaster response; everyone was trying to call home, so no-one could get through. My Mother, sister, and I were instantly refugees and responders at the same time. Thankfully we lived in a tall building on the 5th floor, so our belongings were safe, though I can’t say the same for many neighbors and friends.
In 2010, my Mother and I were in Leh, Ladakh, when freak rainstorms made rivers of mud that washed away whole villages. This time, all communication was down, as in, smashed, broken, and buried. The Indian Army was stationed nearby, and was able to provide equipment and people to the response, but it still took a long time. We worked in the mud and hospital for a week before our turn came to fly out.
In my experience, as in most natural disasters, communications infrastructure takes a beating, often rendering it unreliable for the response efforts.
The CrisisCommunicator project aims to change this, by building a communication system that will operate independently of any infrastructure: just turn it on and it creates a network automatically.
In 2012, this project brought me the United Nations International Telecom Union’s Young Innovator Fellowship. This award was both for the concept and for the business plan, which focuses on building community preparedness and enabling a community-driven disaster response.
In 2014, I received an initial development grant from Almi, a Swedish early-stage funding agency. The grant helps, but it’s not enough! That’s why I’m asking you!
- Open-Source: The CrisisCommunicator will be open-sourced, and will be designed to use freely available or open-sourced data sources (maps, etc).
- Social Benefit: One target for the CrisisCommunicator is to form the basis for enabling and equipping Community Emergency Response Teams in villages and communities around the globe.
- Appropriate Technology: The proper place of technology is to enable humans to be better humans.
- There are some (totally awesome) disaster response systems that use satellite imaging and computer image processing to determine the extent and future spread of a disaster, high-tech digital satellite communications, and expensive hardware.
- There are well built radio systems that cost thousands of Dollars/Euros/Yen.
- There are disaster networks that deploy high-bandwidth WiFi networks using portable base stations.
- That’s all great! Our goal is to build a system that is simple enough to be adopted by anyone relatively quickly, low-cost enough to be deployed widely, and capable enough to provide an affected community with the means to run their own disaster response.
- Compatibility: A disaster is the last place to quibble about proprietary formats. The CrisisCommunicator is being designed around open standards and open technologies, and will have compatibility layers built to interface seamlessly with other databases, such as the Red Cross’s Disaster Management Portal, Google’s Disaster Management services, Sahana Eden, and others.
Fund our campaign! Check out the great ways you can be involved, and help us make life in communities around the world better, safer, and more self-reliant!
Everywhere I go, people are interested in this project. The main conundrum has been, how do I get this done without oodles of moolah?
Bringing on investors will shift the focus to return on investment, rather than social impact. Yes, there are “social” investors, and I’d love to meet them!
Going it alone will take a loooooong time. I’d love to partner with a programmer who can put in some sweat and help this grow!
That leaves crowd-funding! I chose to go with RocketHub for the following reasons:
- It’s big and it’s small. It’s not as big as Kickstarter or Indigogo, but it is pretty high up there. Still, it’s small enough that, with your help, the CrisisCommunicator can become one of their bigger campaigns!
- It has a “keep what I raise” option. Even if we don’t meet the goal, we will have the funds that are donated to put towards this project. It’s going forward no matter what – your help will decide how fast!
- I like what they do. Crowdfunding sites are basically middlemen, and take a cut of every transaction. RocketHub takes a cut too, but they have also worked with policymakers to define crowdfunding and to clarify the ways that it works, and with organizations to popularize crowdfunding! These guys are focused on bringing this to everyone, not just making a lot of money.
- RocketHub has partnered with A&E, an entertainment TV show. With your help, we can get their attention, and go really big!
- Crowdfunding = democratic development grant. I believe that Crowdfunding is another angle of democratic people power, and hope that you deem this grant application worthy!
What will the money do?
There are a number of tasks in this project:
- Build an App that can run on an Android tablet, sending and receiving messages via a radio connected with the sound-card.
- Contribute bug fixes, improvements, and documentation back to the open-source projects that we build with.
- Extensive simulated testing and real-world testing
- Integration of the app with hardware. I’m hoping to use hardware from another kickstarted project called the “Earl Tablet”, but need to build testing hardware other than that, and also need to have a back-up plan if that doesn’t come through. (I have backed the Earl, and I feel that they are making reasonable progress, though they are taking a looooong time.)
- Many more tasks. If we reach our funding goals, these will be announced as further goals.
The funds will be used for the initial development, including hiring developers, sourcing test hardware, and testing. Along with this there are a lot of additional expenses involved in starting the business.
Currently, I have saved about $5000 over the last two years to put towards this, and have a grant for an additional $2500. The amount of $150,000 that I’m asking for, plus my savings and the grant, will be just enough to build the application, which also involves substantial “supporting development” such as an online side for when internet does exist, an efficient caching and deployment system for maps, a seamless update framework, servers and map licenses, etc. This is still a shoe-string budget for an undertaking of this scale!
I will work with the funds that I am granted. Meeting the goals will ensure that I am able to produce a high-quality android application, immediately usable for it’s intended purpose. I have a lot more that I would like to do, and will add further goals when they look attainable!
The CrisisCommunicator is initially planned to have the following features:
- Personnel tracking – see where other CrisisCommunicators are, their direction, speed, and latest update.
- Geo-tagged Situation Reports – Note down the position of roadblocks, secondary disasters, points of interest, location of resources, etc., and see the notes that others have made.
- Messaging between CrisisCommunicators
- Refugee Center Management – It transforms into a refugee register, taking down refugees names and family members, tracking stocks of medicine and more.
- Geo-routing – Driving directions! Also flying directions / walking directions / etc., all offline, and taking into account roadblocks entered by Situation Reports.
- Many additional features have been planned, and may be added as extra-funding goals.
A bit about me…
Hi! My name is Link. I love building links between people, and the CrisisCommunicator is hopefully one of those links.
By trade I am a renewable energy engineer, with a double masters from the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden (M.Sc. in Environomical Pathways for Sustainable Energy Systems) and the Technical University of Lisbon in Portugal (M.Sc. in Energy Engineering and Management). I have a bachelors in Mechanical Engineering from Amrita University in India. Read my profile page for more details about me.
The Gift Sponsors
I’m really happy to announce that many of the gifts that I’m offering (“goods” in RocketHub parlance) are from independent artisans/entrepreneurs! They are all friends of mine, and have offered to pitch in with discounts on their offerings. I’m both glad for their support and proud of what they are doing; it’s a privilege to work together for mutual benefit! Hopefully, I will be adding to this section.
Relaxing and Rejuvanating Thai Yoga Massage in Belgium
A free certificate for a lovely and healing massage from Yvonny Adarsh, in Brussels, Belgium. (You may want to plan a visit to Brussels for this.) Adarsh is a master of the Thai School of Lotus Palm Massage, Shiatsu, and Ayurvedic Massage. His wife and partner, Maude, is a teacher of Thai Massage for Pregnant women, babies and children. Not only will you gain an in depth overview of the healing systems Adarsh is bringing to Europe from Masters in Thai healing techniques, you will experience their long term beneficial effects. Check out his website. j.mp/wonderful_massage
Amazing Hand-Made Tie-Dye T-Shirts from America
With her brand Rainbow Kids Tie Dye, Stacia creates vibrant, hand dyed cotton clothing in Massachusetts, USA, each item as special and unique as the person who wears it. Her wearable art features pieces for people of all ages. Channel your inner freedom with a multi-color spiral Tie-Dye T-Shirt!
In her home studio, organic cotton clothing is folded and banded by hand. After soaking the clothing in a mordant solution, she applies the liquefied fiber-reactive dye. Each item is enclosed in a plastic bag for 24 hours, allowing the dye to bond and create vivid colors. No two pieces are exactly alike.
Original Paintings from an Artist in Sweden
Maria Bylund, a Swedish-born artist brings a unique combination of experience and expertise to her paintings. Years of art & psychology practice have given this very thoughtful and talented artist an impressive roster of achievements, with an extraordinarily sensitive and powerful approach to life. Exhibits of Bylund’s works in Belgium, Great Britain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the US have received notable acclaim. Her artwork has been influenced by her studies with Cropper’s high appreciation of “observation and meditation”. Bylund is allowing us to use the artwork on all the printed thank-you cards.
Beautiful Scarves from Alix Cat Suit
Alexa Lowe designs scarves in Chicago, She strives to create “mindfully chic” products that help make the world more beautiful, empowered, and enlightened. Her products are both fashionable and a daily reminder to be more mindful in our pursuits. Every scarf is hand made from 100% silk satin and is digitally printed.