Saturday, January 31, 2009
Sri Lanka gets cell phone based early warning system
by Larry Geller
Imagine that a tsunami is coming. Your cell phone wakes you in middle of the night, persistently ringing, and the message you receive is in your own language.
Radio and TV stations get the latest information at the same time and can interrupt their broadcasts to bring the warning to even more people.
Nursing home operators get the message on inexpensive devices (cell phones!) and take steps to evacuate their vulnerable charges. Schools put their disaster plans into effect. Parents will also be notified.
Interface devices can sound sirens or take other action.
Where is this innovation taking place? In Hawaii (the wannabe world leader)? No, in Sri Lanka. The system was turned over to their government yesterday (Dialog GSM is a telecom carrier in Sri Lanka):
Rs.100 mn. alarm system
Dialog GSM financed a Rs. 100 million GSM enabled early warning system that may warn disasters such as impending tsunamis with minutes.
This system was donated to the Government on Friday.
The technology in this regard was developed by Microimage, a local software company and Moratuwa University.
Such danger alerts may be notified on one's mobile phones and also on alarm system units that may be installed in public places.
The service is offered free of charge.
The alarm system units cost some Rs. 30,000 a unit, but costs may be scaled down if produced in sizeable numbers, this reporter was told.
At present the system is Dialog connected, but as connectivity revolves round the SIM mobile telephony connection, it may be inter-changed to another mobile network after making a couple of other adjustments, reporters were told.
Dialog is believed to be having the widest coverage in the country, with coverage even extending to the North and East.
The disaster warning network is globally connected to international disaster monitoring centres, in particular tsunamis, located in places such as Hawaii and Japan.
Those in turn are connected to the local disaster management centre, which, if necessary, may sound the alarm, particularly to those vulnerable areas, through this technology, for civilian evacuation to safer areas.
"If this technology was available at the time the tsunami struck Sri Lanka, thousands of lives may have had been saved," Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe speaking at the event said.
The December 2004 tsunami took 1« hours to hit Sri Lanka after it originated from the seas off Indonesia, the new early warning system, if it had been on stream, would have had sounded the alarm bells within minutes, he said
More on the system from a Dialog annual report:
THE DISASTER AND EMERGENCY
WARNING NETWORK (DEWN)
The Disaster Management Centre (DMC),
together with Dialog Telekom Limited, is
currently piloting Sri Lanka’s first mass
alert early warning system. The Disaster
and Emergency Warning Network
(DEWN) uses GSM communication
technologies and devices, and transmits
alerts through the GSM network. It can
be used to issue customised alerts to
selected recipients instantaneously, and is
compliant with the internationally
accepted alerting protocol – CAP. DEWN
was developed by Dialog Telekom
Limited, Dialog-University of Moratuwa
Mobile Communications Research
Laboratory, and Microimage, as a result
of research and development undertaken
immediately after the tsunami.
DEWN is a truly innovative and unique
solution for Disaster and Emergency
Warning. These features include:
• Use of GSM network – There is no
known similar low cost & inclusive
emergency warning network based
exclusively on GSM technology /
network without the need of
• Use of Common Alert Protocol (CAP)
– A unique standard for alert
dissemination on a GSM network.
• Multi-Modal – Audio alarm (wake
sleeping subscribers), multi-lingual
display, interface to external alarm
• Purpose built GSM alarm devices –
For use in the community domain
interfaced to indigenous warning
• Use of cell broadcast – Provide
immunity to network congestion.
• Handset resident Java and Symbian
applications – Translate SMS and CB
messages into penetrative multilingual
screen flash messages &
audible alarm tones.
DEWN is a digitally inclusive multimodal
communication protocol built on
a suite of ubiquitous GSM technologies
and is used to warn people of
impending disasters by overcoming
disparities in accessibility, affordability
and availability associated with
traditional warning systems/
technologies. DEWN helps bridge the
digital divide by enabling disaster
information to be communicated
through accessible and affordable
technology (GSM devices) securely and
instantaneously to emergency personnel
and mobile phone users based on an
intelligent segmentation. DEWN, using
Cell broadcast, SMS, CAP, is designed to
include multiple categories of devices –
ranging from standard low cost GSM
handsets to purpose built community
alarms – Thereby including all strata of
society regardless of demographic
DEWN is a gift to the Nation from
Dialog Telekom and its partners, and is
deployed as a non commercial value
added service. DEWN is an ideal
solution for a government with a
pro-poor agenda, seeking to ensure the
safety of its citizens, due to the
ubiquitous GSM infrastructure provided
by network operators, and the
deliverability of DEWN to even the most
basic of GSM handsets.
I have an innovative idea for our city and state civil defense people: do a deal with Dialog so we can have a system like this also!\