Natural disaster IT system that functions during power cuts wins prestigious award

Image credit: queen belfast uni

A wireless IT system designed to work without power during natural disasters such as hurricanes, has won the Newton Prize.

It is designed with robustness in mind and can cope with the physical destruction of telecomm networks, lack of power supply and network congestion, according to Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) which developed the project.

The system is also capable of providing early warning of natural disasters by detecting water level, vibration and wind data.

The Newton Prize, which is given to projects that support the economic development and social welfare of developing countries, is supported by £735m-worth of UK investment.

The fund was launched in 2014 and originally consisted of £75m each year for five years. In the 2015 UK Spending Review it was agreed to extend and expand the fund by doubling the £75m investment to £150m by 2021.

QUB researcher Dr Trung Duong (pictured above), who developed the technology, said: “Natural disasters are a big problem not just in Vietnam but throughout the whole world and the impact is worse for those in remote and isolated areas with no access to the ICT facilities that are essential to providing vital warning information and aiding in rescue missions.”

Dr Duong is originally from Vietnam but based at the Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology at QUB.

He won the accolade and £200,000 prize money after creating a system capable of transmitting during extreme weather conditions.

In Vietnam, three-quarters of the country’s population is at risk from natural disaster, particularly the poor.

In the past 20 years, disasters have claimed more than 13,000 casualties and caused £5.2bn damage.

Close up shot of Dr Duong's invention

Power cuts and signal blackouts have been common and caused difficulties for emergency services.

Duong said he would use the prize money to develop his research further, creating a system which could be used by telecoms service providers.

He added: “I am very happy that I have been able to make a positive impact in Vietnam and to give something back to the country that I grew up in.

“Our research at Queen’s University Belfast is helping to solve many problems for the citizens of Vietnam.”

In September E&T looked at the latest earthquake warning technology and how it could help lessen the impact of the catastrophic damage incurred during such events. 

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