MACTRO Makes a Case for Emergency Mobile Communications
When typhoon Haiyan slammed into the central Philippine islands on November 8, 2013, it knocked down much of the area’s telecommunications infrastructure.
As humanitarian news organization IRIN reported it , international telecom companies rushed to assist their local counterparts, and services began to be brought back online three days later. Full services were restored much later, toward the end of the year.
While the swift response of the telecoms industry is indeed laudable, it begs a closer look at how cities respond to a loss of communications, during times of emergencies.
In the United States, Wireless Emergency Alerts are sent out in coordination with participating mobile carriers.
But as the Philippine example shows, in a disaster, even almighty telcos can get knocked down.
The 72 hours that it took to rush a team to ground zero of emergency response operations could have been 3 days too late for many victims. The first-response for telco service restoration must come from the affected area itself.
Hong Kong-headquartered Mactro Emergency Technologies proposes to enable cities, first-responders and aid organizations themselves to just that, with its Mactro Emergency SMS Alert Broadcaster and its Mactro Emergency Communications Network.
Mactro’s products work on the assumption that even when mobile carrier services are down, people will still have their handsets with them. All Mactro needs to then do, is communicate with these handsets.
The Mactro Emergency SMS Alert Broadcaster is able to send out messages to a mobile phone’s SMS inbox, with our without a working cellular service. Using a portable transmitter, it is able to send out a one-way broadcast message - complete with a personalized alpha-numeric sender ID - that will be received by all GSM, UMTS, 3G and LTE phones, regardless of their frequency or carrier, so long as they are within its range of reception: a maximum of five kilometers.
The sender does even not have to know the mobile numbers of the recipients, as the message will pass through the Mactro Emergency SMS Alert Broadcaster’s own transmitter, bypassing the regular telcos’, to reach mobile phone users. The portable transmitter may be set up in five minutes, and may be powered by a car battery or through solar cells.
The Mactro Emergency Communications Network meanwhile, is able to stand in as a temporary telco, while waiting for the restoration of the regular carrier’s service. Mobile phone users will need to connect to the Mactro network - just like connecting to your local telco’s roaming partner when you land abroad - to be able to enjoy call and text services.
The radius of the network is five kilometers. It may also be setup in twenty minutes, and is powered by a car battery or through solar cells.
For extended periods of use, the closed-loop network may also be opened to allow access to gateway facilities for texting to other networks and for access to the Internet.
With the number of disasters now increasing in frequency, Mactro says that local governments, first-responders and aid organizations must equip themselves with emergency telecommunications capabilities. The company believes that the most practical options involve the one thing that is almost always in everyone’s hands - their mobile phones.