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Can technology predict natural disasters and save lives?

10 Dec 2021
George Tzanetakos

George Tzanetakos

Business Director, Vodafone Greece

When we talk about The Internet of Things (IoT), we often focus on business benefits such as improved productivity and efficiency.

However, its potential extends way beyond, making IoT a critical enabler for the digital society of the future. One where this technology is supporting wider society, from delivering vaccines and medication to those who need it most, to supporting the fight against climate change.

In Greece, we have started to look at how IoT can be used by local authorities and disaster response organisations when it comes to spotting the early warning signs of earthquakes.

Spotting seismic shocks early

Between 1998-2017, earthquakes caused nearly 750,000 deaths globally, more than half of all deaths related to natural disasters[1]. And that’s before we account for the 125 million people, who were injured, made homeless or evacuated during that time.

Earthquakes can strike at any time and increasingly organisations are looking to technology to help spot the early warning signs.

By connecting multiple seismic sensors along fault lines and in areas prone to earthquakes, to a central server, we can monitor shocks and receive alerts when large tremors are picked up. Thanks to NB-IoT, these sensors can last for long periods of time and work in a variety of geographic areas with low infrastructure costs.

This is because NB-IoT provides long range communication, working even when devices are located in hard-to-reach places. Operating greater power efficiency, devices can run on batteries for 10 years or more on a single charge and using low-cost communications hardware, devices can be built for only a few euros.

Giving citizens early warnings means that sensitive or dangerous equipment can be secured to minimise damage and people have a chance to reach safety, reducing injuries and loss of life.

If monitored for long periods of time, authorities can even start to map out the impacts of each quake and use this information to build cities and towns which can withstand smaller movements or reduce impact – sharing this best practice with emerging countries too.

IoT in a crisis

In Greece, we’ve been working with the Seismological Network of Crete (SNC) to update its seismic systems with robust connectivity that can safely and reliably share data with the control centre.

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Image credit: Chania Harbour, Crete

The Aegean region is one of the most seismically active zones in the world and the most active in western Eurasia due to the convergence between the African and Eurasian tectonic plates. That is why it needs to be closely monitored.

The SNC monitors the seismic activity in the region. Made up of 14 seismological stations, it provides real-time insights, as well as supporting wider research and studies. Scaling up the stations using our technology can substantially change their scope.

By providing a fast, secure, reliable and scalable seismic telemetry network environment connected by wireless network (Wi-Fi, 3G / 4G), safety and reliability in data transmission via closed private network (corporate APN, site-to-site VPN) on our IoT network, we are making it possible to achieve more complete and accurate real-time seismic monitoring.

Using scientific models based on the data gathered to predict when earthquakes are going to occur, the SNC can work with local authorities and governments to use this information to proactively warn citizens – helping minimise the damage both in terms of people’s homes, businesses and loved ones.

Find out more about IoT and how it’s supporting wider society.

[1]https://www.who.int/health-topics/earthquakes#tab=tab_1

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