An emerging technology already working to protect civilians in Syria could be relevant to other conflict and environment disaster areas.
Hala Systems is a technology company using cutting-edge tools to provide early warnings to civilians who are under threat of an attack. Hala’s detection and warning system, known as Sentry, uses mobile applications, natural language processing, sensors and remotely controlled warning devices to make civilians in war zones aware of an impending threat. The company claims that after first deploying the technology in Syria in 2016 it provided an average of seven to ten minutes to civilians – a short, but crucial timeframe that allowed people to seek safety. In 2018, the company says its technology resulted in an estimated 20 – 27 per cent reduction in casualty rates.
Bellamy Hanoian, Director of Engineering at Hala Systems explains how it works: “We have a network of observers on the ground that are using the apps to report the air strike data or air craft data. We have an additional suite of apps for civilians, we have sensors on the ground and we scrape open media data. We gather all of that data and you can see it on our insight portal, our data visualisation tool.” On the ground, Hala Systems’ network of air raid sirens, buzzers and lights in public spaces will activate when alerted, with the goal of warning civilians in real-time of an air strike before it happens.
Sentry has other uses in the field of conflict management, humanitarian response and can provide global stakeholders with credible records of attacks and war zone events. First-responders, humanitarian and hospital workers on the ground are also notified in advance of attacks, providing time to coordinate a response.
Verifying the authenticity of any digital media that informs the alert system is a crucial element of the technology. Hala Systems recently announced its use of a distributed ledger from Hedera Hashgraph, known as the Hedera Consensus Service, to validate any digital media, photographs, videos and audio files.
John Jaeger, CEO of Hala Systems, explains the significance of using an enterprise-grade distributed ledger: “Online information can be easily manipulated and faked, and yet it informs crucial decisions and impacts lives. Hedera’s distributed ledger provides Hala Systems with reliable data provenance, in which the public can view digital media and be confident about its authenticity. The impact this will have on our management of humanitarian crises globally will be profound. Hala Sentry empowers civilians to record immutable data from their smartphones, warning others of potential dangers, accurately documenting events as they happen, and providing global stakeholders with credible records upon which to base decisions.”
The company admits it’s not the first time this kind of warning system has been employed during conflict. Similar systems were used in the United Kingdom during both world wars. However, Hala Systems has applied modern technical sophistication using cutting edge tools only now available.
The ability for this kind of technology to extract credible information in real-time from difficult place could see the tool used anywhere by people who are affected by conflict or other threats such as natural disasters.