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“Imagine a town that has just been hit by a disaster. There are no lights, no sounds, no movement. A rescue worker is flying overhead in a helicopter, trying to find a way to help the victims. What would the worker do?”
Chancellor Amma posed this question to Linkesh Diwan, when he sought Amma’s guidance regarding his higher studies, after graduating with a BTech degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Amrita School of Engineering at Amritapuri in 2010.
“Having personally been involved in two large natural disasters, the 2004 Asian Tsunami and the 2010 Cloudburst in Leh, Ladakh, it hit me then that the primary need in disasters is for rescue workers to know what is going on,” he shared.
That is how the Crisis Communicator was born. A simple, low-cost tablet-like device, Linkesh envisions that this will help solve communication networking problems during disasters.
Linkesh recently bagged one of the 12 Young Innovator Fellowships awarded by the United Nations International Telecom Union for the design and the related business plan of the device.
“The Crisis Communicator will be manufactured to withstand very harsh environments. Using open source technology and building upon Automatic Packet Reporting System APRS, it will aid disaster responders by creating a disaster area-wide wireless network over very high frequency,” Linkesh explained.
“Using a particular radio frequency spectrum of amateur radio technology, this will facilitate exchange of digital information among a large number of users. Even though it will operate entirely in an unconnected broadcast fashion, APRS packets will be received by all those involved in the network,” he added.
“The devices will give each disaster responder instant access to a live map showing the progression of the disaster, the position of each person, aiding in refugee management, resource allocation, logistics and much more,” he summed up.
The United Nation’s ITU’s Young Innovator Challenge is a yearly competition open to youth from around the world, who put forth technological solutions and business plans to address societal problems. The fellowships include funding and one year of mentorship.
The prize winners this year, including Linkesh, received the opportunity to present their proposals at the United Nations’ World Telecom Conference in Dubai during October 15-18, 2012.
“I had five minutes to pitch the idea to a large group of industry leaders, investors, officials and conference delegates. I started by describing a disaster-hit town, then went through the business plan, and finished again with the town, saying that this way we could help those people. Post the presentation, one investor told me that he was interested in taking the idea forward,” Linkesh shared.
Linkesh is currently completing his masters program in Environomical Pathways for Sustainable Energy Systems at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden and Instituto Superior Técnico de Lisboa in Portugal as an Erasmus Mundus scholarship student.
Together with friends he wants to create a social enterprise around the Crisis Communicator.
“With community participation, we can work together with emergency response teams, amateur radio clubs, disaster response organizations, and government agencies to provide disaster preparedness training, intelligent deployment, and maintenance of our Crisis Communicators, thereby also generating local employment,” he concluded.
December 18, 2012
School of Engineering, Amritapuri