Tue. Feb 18th, 2020

A new emergency network that doesn't need data or voice | Talent

The earthquake February 27, 2010 in Chile has been recognized as the eighth largest earthquake measured by mankind. Its impact was such that scientists of the POT They certified that its magnitude of 8.8 tilted the Earth's axis the equivalent of eight centimeters.

That night, Barbarita Lara was with her children at her parents' house. Her husband had stayed in the apartment where they lived. In the midst of panic and terror, Lara tried to communicate with her husband. Mission Impossible. Like thousands of Chileans, she was held incommunicado after collapsing telecommunications.

The traumatic experience led Barbarita Lara to create a new worldwide communications network for emergencies. SIE (Emergency Information System) is based on radio waves that can be received even without data or internet network and decrypted by any smartphone.

Thanks to his invention, Barbarita Lara, a 33-year-old IT engineer and CEO of Emercom, became the first Chilean present in the list of innovative sub-35s of the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

The objective of SIE, according to the words of its promoter, is none other than "to create an interconnected global network that brings security and information" to people. "For this, we want to do through the innovative use of a proven, simple and low-cost technology."

The technical characteristics of SIE allow to send texts encoded in an audio, as if it were any music file, which can be decoded by the application installed on a smartphone using the microphone of the phone. It can also work on televisions and smart watches or other mobile devices with integrated microphones that can listen to sounds between 20 hertz and 22 kilohertz.

Barbarita Lara says that her system encodes data in high frequency audios that can be emitted by any sound source. "We use frequencies inaudible to human hatred that are below the AM / FM spectrum, this prevents audios from being confused with the multiple radio stations currently existing in the world."

"We want to generate an Interconnected Global Emergency Network," Lara said. "Our technology is very simple. We can use all the already installed radio infrastructure, along with the thousands of radio amateurs in the world, and thus cover large geographical areas, so that when a country runs out of telecommunications systems, like what happened in Chile in 2010, can communicate through simple wave of radios emitted from any part of the world ”

In that country, in the wake of the earthquake, the telephones that are sold must have an emergency alert system integrated. On this system, Lara explains that “they need to use the mobile data network of cell phones and in case of disaster, as a step in Chile for the 2010 earthquake, the antennas fall, the optical fiber can be cut, the power is cut off electric and the batteries run out. In addition, systems such as the Chilean SAE, which is Israeli technology, have a limit of 93 characters. It is a good alert system, but not of communications, since its operation is very limited ”.

Lara has found everything but facilities. "There is some suspicion to use national technology," he explains. I have noticed that the authorities rely more on foreign technology or one directed by a man: in our society there are many prejudices, ”he says, and explains that they are currently negotiating with European governments that have received us“ quite ”well. "More than in our country."

Other areas

The management of earthquakes and the use that can be given to mobiles in these cases concern all the areas that suffer from them. California is one of the most affected areas. There, the US National Geological Center (USGS) has been working on an early warning system for years, according to Eva Catalán. And the main challenge is to transmit the information to millions of users on time. Something that the USGS cannot assume because of its short budget.

The startup Early Warning Labs collaborates with this thanks to the QuakeAlert app and receive alerts in case of an earthquake in just five seconds. The information will be personalized, depending on how far each user is from the epicenter.

How are the current alert systems?

The technology of the current systems of emergency alerts it's called Cell Broadcast System or cell broadcast system. It is a mobile technology defined by the ETSI GSM committee and is part of the 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G standards. It's what is called a geographically focused messaging service from one to many (one2many) and allows you to create communication channels with mobiles that are in a specific geographical area. Currently, it is currently used in 20 countries.

How does it work? Define and distribute a text message to all mobile terminals connected to a set of cells. The latest generation of Cell Broadcast Systems (CBS) can send an (alert) message of up to 500,000 cells in less than 10 seconds, reaching millions of phones in seconds.

Currently the emergency alert system is a service that the vast majority of mobile phones have. This alert is sent directly by the institution in charge in each country to alert citizens of natural disasters such as tsunamis or volcano eruption through national operators and are geolocated, so alerts are dissected to people located in an area geographical

The alert arrives via text and sound to a georeferenced area, and is not affected by the congestion of cellular networks, since it uses frequency channels reserved for these systems and thus reach the phones safely. The big problem it has is that it depends on the cellular antennas and the autonomy of electrical energy that they have.

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