Mobile phones and AI vie to update early disaster warning systems
Natural disasters caused havoc in 2017. The United Nations calculates that earthquakes, floods and landslides affected 445m people and killed 8,000. The estimated economic impact was almost $139bn. The world’s nearly 5bn mobile phone users, however, are being drafted in to help — both in the aftermath of a disaster and to provide an early warning system. One of the first things that people want to do after disaster strikes is make contact with emergency services and loved ones. Several mobile operators are formalising their role at these times of stress. For example Telefónica, which operates in countries like Chile which have a high earthquake risk, has teamed up with Facebook to embed the social network’s “safety check” into its artificial intelligence platform Aura so that they can more easily let friends and family know that they are safe.