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In March 2019, Dan Cunnington from Emerging Technology was deployed to Puerto Rico to help facilitate the field testing of the winning Call for Code solution – Project Owl. As part of the grand prize, Project Owl won a field testing opportunity supported by IBM Corporate Service Corps to field test their winning solution on the ground in Puerto Rico. Project Owl’s solution, which aims to connect victims of natural disasters to first responders is a two part hardware/software solution consisting of small devices called “ducks” that serve up a WiFi portal for information gathering and a back-end software application that enables first responders to coordinate disaster response.
Puerto Rico was chosen due to the devastating impact Hurricane Maria caused on the local community, which resulted in an estimated $94 billion worth of damage. During the field test deployment, the IBM Corporate Service Corps team consisting of Omer Arad (IBM Research Haifa), Maria Masiar (IBM Learning), Victoria Walters (IBM Watson Health), Brandi Boatner (IBM Communications) and Dan Cunnington (IBM Research UK) designed and implemented a testing solution consisting of a user interface designed to meet the needs of hurricane victims, an Android application to simulate user devices and a full back-end cloud software stack to collect, store and visualise data for incident response. The IBM Corporate Service Corps team was also supported by Daniel Krook (Call for Code CTO), Derek Teay (IBM Developer Advocate) and Sarah Storelli (IBM Code and Response), alongside the Project Owl team and together we hosted visits from senior government officials, such as Ricardo Rossello (Governor of Puerto Rico) and Glorimar Ripoll Balet (Chief Innovation Officer of Puerto Rico) as well as briefing Mayors in the towns of our field test locations. Our work was also published by The Associated Press.
Throughout the two-week deployment, the team based themselves at Engine-4 – a co-working space recently established outside of San Juan, in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. We conducted field tests in a wide range of locations to test Project Owl’s solution in varying environments, such as mountainous, residential and seaside locations. The team would deploy duck devices, send messages from user smartphones and verify communications were received over Project Owl’s LoRa network into IBM Cloud. The team rapidly assembled the necessary hardware, software and infrastructure required to support the deployment and had to improvise with requirements on-demand, designing cases to house the duck devices, building an event log to view test data on an iPad mounted in the test vehicle and adapting the user interface based on meetings and discussions with hurricane victims.
As well as conducting field tests of Project Owl’s solution, the team also conducted a variety of community service activities. This included volunteering at the United Way Children’s Centre in San Juan, installing a Things Network gateway for the community at Engine-4 and educating children about Project Owl & IBM activities at a school in Isabela.
The team also engaged with a wide variety of partners, including the International Technology Disaster Response Centre and Drone Aid – founded by hurricane victim and Puerto Rico local Pedro Cruz to further validate and extend the Project Owl solution. The field test was very successful and collected a large amount of data for Project Owl to use in their work and also through our community activities we partnered and engaged with key community members.
The 2019 Call for Code competition has been announced and is open through July 29th. To register and submit your idea, click here: https://callforcode.org/challenge/