Are you aware?
The world we live in today has never been more connected. Technological advancements have allowed most of the world to be able to access the internet from our fingertips. It is great to be able to see what your friend across the world is up to at any moment. It is fantastic that we can all share these wonderful connections and use technology to send selfies at the speed of light. But what happens when we start to use that technology to help our communities? Can we make a significant impact by using emerging IOT technology and applying those new techniques to help humanity? I for one think we can.
Let me introduce you to ICAB. The Intelligent Community Alert Beacon.
What is ICAB?
ICAB is a cloud connected network of visual alert beacons which provides real time visualization of critical emergency alerts. The beacons are meant to provide an alternative way to receiving alerts. You no longer have to have a phone or computer to stay informed about potential hazards in your community. The main system consist of a head node beacon which displays details of the alert on a small touchscreen. The LightBeacons are smaller, more compact cloud connected visual devices. These LightBeacons are meant to be placed around offices, rooms, or public places. In the event of an emergency situation, the beacons will flash appropriate color patters in relation to the event.
Why is ICAB Important?
ICAB provides alerts for a community at large. You do not have to worry about signing up to different services for alerts or information about environmental or situational hazards. A life can change in the blink of an eye. If an alert can get to someone sooner, the outcome could potentially have a better result. Take for instance the AMBER Alert System.
The AMBER Alert System began in 1996 when Dallas-Fort Worth broadcasters teamed with local police to develop an early warning system to help find abducted children. AMBER stands for America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response and was created as a legacy to 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was kidnapped while riding her bicycle in Arlington, Texas, and then brutally murdered. Other states and communities soon set up their own AMBER plans as the idea was adopted across the nation.
As of December 23, 2015 there have been over 800 children rescued and returned because of the AMBER Alert system. It is also reported that once the criminals hear about the alert they are more likely to release the victim. Similar stories can be said about the Hurricane, and Tornado warning systems. All these alerting systems have saved millions of lives. Our platform is flexible enough to offer low cost, lower power usage, while providing a global benefit of safety.
The ICAB Platform can be deployed in both private and public clouds. A software driven service connects to various alert API's to aggregate important data based on configurable location data. We currently host the solution in Microsoft's Azure Cloud. Utilizing Azure IOT Hub as a central management hub, we can provide a highly saleable and secure engine to run the platform. This core services handles the scheduling of alerts and management of devices.
On the hardware side you have two primary types of devices, or "Beacons". DisplayBeacons are the "Headed" beacons. The small screens attached to them provides details for the visual alerts. Future releases will have NFC and iBeacon technology so that anyone can tap their phones to the screen and transfer the alert or launch a website with more details. This option allows you to continue moving while reading the alerts in case of an emergency. The LightBeacons are the actual devices that get triggered when an alert is activated. We plan to come up with a few different form factors depending on the use-case. We envision small desktop personal type LightBeacons as well as industrial applications like ceiling tile lights than can provide guidance in low visibility scenarios like a fire.
1 / 2 • Display Beacon (Center) , Industrial Form-Factor (Left) , Consumer Form-Factor (Right)
A diagram of typical alert path as it flows though the ICAB platform
- Web Worker Service checks for latest Amber Alert
- Using the Twitter API, the latest information is pulled from the tweets
- The service determines if the tweet is new or if its to cancel a previous alert
- The appropriate function is called on the DisplayBeacons and the screen is updated with details
- The DisplayBeacon then send a command to all its assigned LB's (Light Beacons)
- Beacons turn on the led and flash them.
- All beacons report back on success or failure
- Data and telemetry can be stored in the cloud for historical analysis
1 / 2 • LightBeacon Protype 1 Circuit
End User Experiences
1. Missing child at large event or concert - ICAB can effectively notify the entire area faster then audio announcements.
2. Low Light Hazard Situation - A building on fire can utilize ICAB LightBeacons to illuminate a safe path. Built in Temperature sensors can provide feedback to emergency operators. They can direct fire teams to the hotter areas while showing civilians the safe routes. Green lights will highlight the safe path while red lights will signal danger ahead.
3 Discrete Alerts - Using ICAB you can setup discrete devices to alerts employee's or others without notifying the entire building
4 Smart City Alerts - Entire Cities can deploy Beacons to provide useful information to citizens.
Numerous Application Prospects
As you can see ICAB has a wide range of possible applications. From community safety to military and police support use-cases. A connected community alert system can only benefit humanity.
LightBeacons are nothing new. Light Houses have existed for centuries. Humanity has been using light and fire for warnings and messages since the dawn of time. I think it's time now to use technology to create a paradigm shift in the way we provide safety to our community. Imagine a smart city with smart alerts that keep you informed without the burden of being attached to your phone.