How useful are your cellphones and devices if the grid goes down, taking the internet and cellular networks with it? About as useful as a paper weight.
IBM and Project Owl are looking to change that. First responders and victims of disasters like floods and hurricanes are the people most in need of rapid communication. They need to coordinate rescue operations, and a communication can save lives.
To fulfill a request IBM made for technology that could accomplish this, Project Owl has created little Wi-fi devices known as DuckLinks. Bloomberg reports on what these devices do:
The five young men met competing against each other at computer hackathons. They joined together to compete in a contest sponsored by International Business Machines Corp. last year called Call for Code, which asked developers to use cloud, artificial intelligence and other technologies to amplify preparedness for natural disasters. Their entry, Project Owl, which stands for Organization, Whereabouts, and Logistics, uses a “clusterduck” network made of hubs that resemble rubber ducks, which can float in flooded areas. Once deployed, civilians are able to get on their cellphone to connect with first responders. Emergency workers are also able to learn about weather and get information data analytics through the cloud.
The team won the competition, beating more than 2,500 global entries, for a $200,000 grand prize. In March, they joined representatives from IBM to deploy the devices, known as DuckLinks, across five regions in Puerto Rico that were devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017.
“In the worst disasters, chaos and misinformation are pervasive,” said Bryan Knouse, 28, chief executive officer and co-founder of Project Owl. “With better information and better analytics, you can get the resources you need to the places that need it most.” Other members of the team include Charlie Evans, 32, Nick Feuer, 25, Taraqur Rahman, 27, and Magus Pereira, 23.
During the two-week pilot program, Project Owl attached DuckLinks with Velcro to trees in the jungle, perched them atop of sand dunes on beaches, stuck them on car doors and cliff faces and even floated them above buildings in helium balloons. Project Owl managed to create a live internet network across one square mile using 23 DuckLinks, communicating via the system in areas without cell reception.
Read more here.