- Title: Chilean engineer invents platform to communicate after natural disaster
- Date: 24th July 2018
- Summary: LARA WORKING ON COMPUTER LARA TYPING ON LAPTOP (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) SYSTEMS ENGINEER, BARBARITA LARA, SAYING: "When all conventional communication systems collapse after a natural disaster, what we can do is, effectively, have a channel where people can communicate with their families and with emergency services. How do we do this? By delivering an easy-to-use App where you can receive information encoded in audio in high frequency, but it does not matter if you do not have internet or mobile networks. A message warning of what will happen will still reach your mobile phone."
- Embargoed: 7th August 2018 10:43
- Keywords: earthquake quake tsunami warning system app emergency services S!E
- Location: VALPARAISO, DICHATO, AND COQUIMBO, CHILE
- City: VALPARAISO, DICHATO, AND COQUIMBO, CHILE
- Country: Chile
- Topics: Science
- Reuters ID: LVA0078Q3W2MZ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: After a devastating 8.8-magnitude earthquake in central-southern Chile that triggered a massive tsunami and killed more than 525 people in 2010, a Chilean engineer came up with an idea to help people communicate after disaster strikes.
Thirty-two-year-old systems engineer Barbara Lara was shocked when she and her four-year-old-child found themselves unable to communicate with her husband - the child's father - after the quake.
Lara insists dozens of people on the coast could have been saved had they been warned about the impending tsunami, triggered by the 2010 quake, before it hit.
Most people depend on internet and mobile phones, but after a catastrophe, most networks are cut off, which is why Lara designed a product she thinks may be able to save lives when the next disaster hits.
In 2015 Lara founded a platform, known by its Spanish acronym S!E (Emergency Information System), which allows smartphone users to receive messages from authorities via encrypted high-frequency audio, according to local media. It has been under development for eight years.
Lara was inspired also by the exhilaration she felt at being able to use her cellphone to communicate with people abroad and connect them with residents located in the epicentre during the 2010 quake.
She told Reuters: "The feeling of happiness transmitted to me from a mother, after realising her son had been in touch, made me think: 'Why is this not a right for everyone?' We should all have a system to be able to communicate after a disaster with our relatives and especially to be able to receive more information."
Her technology blends analogue and digital technologies to send alerts to residents in emergency situations when all internet and phone networks have collapsed.
Lara's S!E platform uses existing radio infrastructure and says her invention was inspired by Morse code, shown to her as a child by her father who worked as a cryptologist in the Chilean navy.
"When all conventional communication systems collapse after a natural disaster, what we can do is, effectively, have a channel where people can communicate with their families and with emergency services," she said. "How do we do this? By delivering an easy-to-use App where you can receive information encoded in audio in high frequency, but it does not matter if you do not have internet or mobile networks. A message warning of what will happen will still reach your mobile phone."
Chilean disaster management authorities are discussing using Lara's platform through Emercom, a start-up she founded to develop and commercialise her invention. She is also exploring the possibility of a telecoms company pre-installing S!E on all new mobile phones.
Lara is the first Chilean recognized by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as being among the most important global innovators under the age of 35, for her work on S!E.
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