IBM has teamed up with The Weather Company, an IBM-owned company, to launch Mesh Network Alerts technology that provides a mobile method of communicating with underserved populations in developing countries to notify residents of potential severe weather events or disasters. The company revealed that the notifications can take place even in areas with limited Internet connection, or when cellular networks are disrupted due to an outage.
The technology will be available in emerging countries, including 22 from Africa, namely: SA, Zimbabwe, Morocco, Zambia, Nigeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Mauritius, Namibia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde and Senegal.
The technology will be available soon via The Weather Channel app in emerging markets. The app uses peer-to-peer connections within the mesh network to send alerts to individuals via their smartphone devices.
This is how it works. The mesh network technology links other nearby phones to extend the signal to help keep citizens connected and informed, and in the most severe conditions, might even help save a life.
According to IBM, Mesh Network Alerts technology is particularly crucial in emerging markets, as well as in developed countries where cellular networks are congested, connectivity is intermittent and data access is often limited. As a result, the ability to alert and inform people during emergency situations is unreliable, which can have dire consequences, the computing company says.
“The combination of the innovative Mesh Network Alerts and global reach of The Weather Channel mobile app can help deliver a new level of emergency awareness to underserved populations,” says Bijan Davari, IBM fellow and vice-president, next-generation computing systems and technology, IBM Research.
“We’re proud to be able to quickly offer a critical and potentially lifesaving capability to hundreds of millions of people around the world.”
“IBM once again shows its leadership in edge computing capabilities, and this next important milestone will help bring the value of edge compute to life. Mesh Network Alerts extend the ability to receive a potentially lifesaving alert to a global audience, even with limited connectivity,” says Cameron Clayton, general manager and CEO of The Weather Company.
“With IBM collaboration, investment and research, we can now reach users in previously underserved areas and better deliver the information they need.”
Mesh Network Alerts work entirely within the app, using devices connected to Bluetooth or WiFi to communicate with other smartphones nearby that are not connected via data or to a cell network. It works off the grid in remote areas, large crowds or disaster zones, but scale is crucial.
At only 3.2MB, the app can store weather data offline for up to 24 hours and offers user-selected options of whether to update on WiFi, cellular or on request. These changes result in high performance on 2G and 3G connections, launching in seconds on 2G, says IBM. With reduced file size and bandwidth usage, many of the innovations piloted in this app are planned to make their way into The Weather Channel App for Android flagship later this year as well.