RHoK 4

rhoksoton211I’m happy to announce that Random Hacks of Kindness will be coming to Southampton for the 4th time! Again with help from Alejandro Saucedo and HackaSoton.

During the weekend of 6-7 December 2013, The University of Southampton will be one of the satellite cities as part of the global Random Hacks of Kindness Event!

See below for the problem statements. This time around Im particularly interested in any UAV related problems.

Twitter hashtag: #rhoksoton

Eventbrite - Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) Southampton

We are proud and very grateful to be supported by Enterprise and Digital Economy at the University of SouthamptonMicrosoft Gadgeteer, Business Analyst Mentor,  ScanToSecure, and ATASS.

For those who don’t know, a RHoK (founded by Google, Microsoft, Nasa, and others) is all about bringing domain experts, programmers, and makers together for a weekend in order to solve problems related to humanity and international development. They are an awesome way to learn something new, test your skills, meet new people, and do something for the good of the world (for more details see The RHoK FAQ).


Problem Statements

Some of the problem statements that will be pitched are listed below.


Surveys and Community Health Work on Android (MSF)

A tablet-based data collection application intended for use by relatively uneducated Community Health Workers in poor countries, with a synchronization function to a master device for quick collation and display of the results.

In an emergency, humanitarian agencies struggle to identify the precise needs. To be sure, we know that people displaced by violence need water, food, and shelter, and in an outbreak people need medicine. However, the finer-scale needs are harder to assess. Who actually needs shelter, and who is staying with relatives? Who is sick now, or at risk of contracting a disease, as opposed to those who’ve already survived and are thus (at least for the moment) immune to the ongoing outbreak? Who lives near a water source, which water sources are clean, and who needs water trucked to them? What are the mortality and morbidity (death and sickness respectively) rates within the various neighbourhoods of the sprawling urban slum or refugee camp?

Even relatively poorly educated people can often learn to use a tablet quickly, particularly if the relevant application is well-designed. If a team of CHW’s can be dispatched with small tablets, collect data all day (conducting surveys etc), and the data on all of their tablets can be synched to a master device and instantly displayed and transmitted to the humanitarian project management team, we could become more efficient.


Joekit: a spreadsheet-to-map (kml) converter for humanitarian medical use (realtime epidemic mapping) (MSF)

Joekit is a stand-alone Java GUI app (using Swing) that converts spreadsheet/table data in to kml maps. This is not unique functionality, but it is implemented for simplicity and ease of use in the humanitarian field. It is already in use, but could stand a lot of improvement if it is to live up to its full potential.

Joekit aims to make it easy for humanitarian workers (primarily medical ones) to map and visualize their data. The most obvious use is tracking epidemics; if we know where a disease has struck in time and space we can tailor our medical response accordingly and perhaps even predictively. The key is to make it smooth and easy for humanitarians aid workers, who are usually neither computer experts nor GIS wizards, to get this data on screen quickly so that they can make decisions from the data and get back to work.


QPad (MSF)

A tablet-based, open-source field data collection application to create high-quality datasets for GIS applications.
MSF/Doctors Without Borders has used GIS over the years for epidemic surveillance, disease risk mapping (looking for places at risk for certain illnesses), water and sanitation planning (setting up water systems in refugee camps that in some cases are de facto small cities), logistics and transport planning, and security management. However, the specialized nature and high cost of GIS systems has meant that this use is limited to a handful of relatively expert users in headquarters, and not benefitted field operations to the extent that it could. The emergence of powerful, user-friendly, open-source GIS could change all of that.

The vast majority of tablet-based navigation/data collection apps focus on an urban environment (finding Starbucks’) or recreation (known fishing holes). They rarely function well offline, typically panicking the moment they’re off the grid. None that I know of do any of the advanced geographical processing needed for high-quality data (differential correction, for example, or writing to native GIS formats such as Shapefiles).

It’s a fairly complicated project. Though a first proof-of-concept application could probably be built quite quickly, it would take a lot of follow-up to make it into a serious contender. For example, it’s quite likely that the collection of GPS data in a good GUI could be accomplished in a hackathon, but to include interoperability with various GIS file formats, different GPS receivers (including high-
precision external ones), and to manage differential correction is probably a bit ambitious. Still, perhaps that need for follow-up is in some ways an advantage.

Biggest advantage: if this works it’ll probably get enormous uptake amongst professional field users. It could be part of a game-changer in its field.


Open Sustainability Data Portal (UoS, ECS)

Much of the data that is critical to moving towards a more sustainable society and combatting climate change is scattered across the internet on different open data portals and websites. This places substantial obstacles in the way of people looking to drive forward the sustainability agenda. Research has identified and categorised sustainability datasets across the world, so there is now an opportunity to create a global sustainability super-portal as a gateway to all this data, wherever it is. The repository will be based on the leading open source open data repository software CKAN, including code from the http://publicdata.eu/ version which allows the mirroring of other repositories.


SMS-based two-way communication in resource-poor settings (MSF)

A simple, robust, open-source PC-based SMS utility specifically intended to facilitate two-way communication with people in resource-poor settings. First pilot to be in Nigeria. Africa, in particular, has very poor internet penetration. Most people do not have anything remotely like the financial and educational resources to participate in online life. However, there are hundreds of millions of mobile phones in Africa, and increasingly even poor, uneducated villagers are able to connect to the larger world via telephone and SMS.

The concept: an SMS-based emergency alert system for everyone, and an active health surveillance system for health care workers.

– Alerts: pretty much every village in Nigeria has access to a phone, even those that aren’t covered. If they have an emergency number to which they can send an SMS, and we can automatically display them in a map, we’ll know if there are a lot of calls for help coming from a particular area, and we can send an assessment team.

– Active surveillance: In the area we’re hoping to pilot (four north-western states of Nigeria), there are 16 million people in 10,000 villages, 800 wards, and 80 districts. Currently MSF calls every single one of the districts every week to get the case numbers for measles, meningitis, and cholera (the three key outbreak-prone diseases) as well as any other extraordinary illness they might have noticed. All in all, our coverage is abysmal, perhaps 25% if we’re lucky, and that 25% is third-hand information. Ideally all 10,000 villages could send us an SMS each week, and we could automate the process of collating, mapping, displaying, and preparing the results for analysis.


Africa youth dialogues: Making voices heard (UoS)

Africa youth dialogue is an initiative by a group of young people in Africa and around the world as a platform for agile African youth to engage in dialogue exchange to not only analyse the state of the African continent, but to take action, individually and collectively to transform Africa. This platform is currently being done through Facebook with representation from 8 African countries as well as the US and the UK.

Our problem is how do we reach out to young people who do not have access to facebook, through innovative technological means? (SMS?)
Secondly: How can we organize our data thematically? We want to be able to categorise data say according to posts on politics, HIV/AIDS, Media etc


Mapping potential water pump locations (ATASS)

With limited resources, it can be difficult for an aid organisation to assess the areas most in need of wells or water pumps. In addition, much research that has been done into areas of need or current resource is disparate and not available in a single place.

This application would initially map available water resources, areas of population and current installations to allow a researcher to efficiently target areas most in need of new wells or pumps. Efficient targeting of locations for wells and pumps would also serve to reduce the amount of time spent collecting water (WHO/UNICEF state  women collecting water for families consumes 200 million hours each day.)

We envision this application working as a set of map layers which can be combined to highlight target areas. In this way additional layers can be added to provide additional information. If the solution can easily accept additional data layers, a framework can be created to allow multiple data sources to be combined in one place.


Preliminary georeferencing for UAVs (MSF)

The countries where MSF works are poorly mapped. This costs lives needlessly. Better aerial imagery could help solve this problem.

I have a multi-rotordrone that costs only a few hundred quid to put together. Cheap carbon fiber rods, insulation foam, mail-order motors & batteries, a few 3D printed parts, and an Arduino-based, open-source control unit (AdruPilot), results in an airframe that is remarkably stable and capable of carrying a substantial payload. I’m easily able to get high-resolution aerial imagery from a GoPro orother digital camera, as well as telemetry log files with position, elevation, and orientation throughout the flight.

At the moment, georeferencing the resulting photos is arduous. In the absence of an automated workflow, I rely on pre-existing imagery to correlate points (match the photos to Google Earth or similar), or take GPS tracks along landmarks visible from the air. Still, before you can even begin to match points, each photo must be taken individually and rotated and scaled until one can visually identify correlation points; this is much more difficult outside of urban areas, and nearly impossible in forests or fields.

We have the position, elevation, orientation (pitch, yaw, and roll) recorded by the UAV controller many times per second. This can be cross-referenced with the time of each photo or video frame, and combined with the known Field of View angle of the camera. Together this data is sufficient to produce a preliminary georeferencing using simple trigonometry. Each photo could be placed facing in the right direction, very nearly at the right scale, and depending on the accuracy of the GPS and orientation sensors, in the vicinity of the right location.

Bottom line: we can build a system to combine a time-stamped photo series with UAV telemetry data to partially automate georeferencing. This will make the human task vastly simpler (or, for a certain tolerance of inaccuracy, unneeded). This will go long way toward making it possible for citizens of poor countries to map their own environment, with the ultimate goal of having the kind of health mapping infrastructure that we take for granted in the wealthy world.

One thought on “RHoK 4

  1. Pingback: RHoKers Working with MSF in the Philippines | Dirk's Page

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