Interview News

Utimaco’s PWS technology can help save millions of lives from disasters


Utimaco’s product suite for Public Warning is the latest addition to extend the company’s protective product range to direct protection of human lives.

Climate change caused by human activity has increased the frequency and intensity of natural disasters like hurricanes, famines, floods, and droughts. This has led to the use of AI and ML tools to automate catastrophe preparedness and recovery processes.

Deval Sheth, Managing Director of Utimaco for the Asia Pacific region

What are Utimaco’s Key offerings?

Headquarters in Aachen (Germany) and Campbell, CA (USA), Utimaco is a global platform provider of trusted Cybersecurity and Compliance solutions and services. UTIMACO develops on-premises and cloud-based hardware security modules, solutions for key management, data protection and identity management as well as data intelligence solutions for regulated critical infrastructures and Public Warning Systems.

For almost 40 years, Utimaco products have been protecting people around the world against terrorism and organized crime and have secured private and sensitive data against theft or abuse.

How technology can play a key role in safeguarding India during climate-led disasters?

Over time, with the increase in computing power, the role of technology has evolved to help predict climate conditions and change through sophisticated means of weather forecasting and modeling. This has enabled us to better understand climate conditions over a range of short and long term.

Traditionally, scientists and weather experts were privy to the potentiality of dangerous weather phenomena like a hurricane or a flood in advance and people had to follow the news to learn of these events. However, to protect the population from impending danger, it is essential for the people in the affected area to have the information been actively sent to them beforehand. This can enable them time to prepare and protect their property or in the worst case have enough advance warning to make sure they can leave the area in order to save their lives. To help address this issue, Utimaco provides a Public Warning System that sends alerts and warnings within seconds to every cell phone in an area affected by a catastrophic situation, without the need for mobile numbers and irrespective of the congestion in the telecom network. Moreover, the solution can connect with public loudspeakers, sirens, on-screen TV messages, radio or other local warning systems. Therefore, the PWS solution can be used in any kind of emergency situation, from natural and climate-led disasters to heinous acts of terrorism that threaten human lives. The solution has many uses cases across the world and has proven effective to safeguard the affected population through timely alerting.

How public-private collaboration can save millions of lives as climate-led disasters strike faster?

To create a meaningful impact on society at large, public and private sectors must collaborate to ensure the safety of the citizens of a nation. While the public sector has the data and infrastructure, the private sector provides specialized expertise and technology to develop solutions that ensure welfare of the citizens. The public infrastructure is a key element for any nation to take efforts for disaster management and technology acts as an accelerator and addresses a wide range of issues with an ability to develop adaptable solutions in a short time frame. Moreover, the citizens of a nation trust their local and national governments to ensure public safety by timely informing of any imminent threats to their livelihood.

After witnessing various use cases of Public Warning Systems across the world, many government and authorities around the world are creating laws to establish Cell Broadcast technology as a pre-requisite to their disaster management and relief efforts. In this case, the collaboration of the public and private sectors ensures that global best practices are imbibed and governments/authorities can deploy effective solutions within a short span of time, thereby saving many lives. We at Utimaco are very proud to be part of this journey.

How AI solutions can help save lives with better disaster preparedness?

Climate change caused by human activity has increased the frequency and intensity of natural disasters like hurricanes, famines, floods, and droughts. This has led to the use of AI and ML tools to automate catastrophe preparedness and recovery processes. Disaster management committees are utilising technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to help with relief operations and reduce damage from disasters by accurately forecasting their occurrence.

AI is a very powerful technology and a way of understanding how changing one factor in any given scenario will impact an entire ecosystem and how this change will impact an outcome. The definition of the 1.5-degree climate target in the 2015 Paris agreement is based on simulations of how our world climate will change and what this will mean for the world’s population and economy. Perhaps more about how we live today, AI-based simulations also help to predict the impact of emerging weather phenomena, e.g. how a storm forming in the Pacific may translate into a Tsunami wave and where it might hit land, which is the first step in the setting of a Public Warning alert in the area.

Talking about recent floods in Karnataka (Bengaluru), Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, talk about the need to upgrade public warning infrastructure in India?

Last year, floods in Germany resulted in loss of over two hundred lives which could have been prevented if there was a direct, automated communication channel between the authorities and population that made sure everybody in the region was alerted to imminent danger. This catastrophe led the German government to take action and introduce regulations for the nationwide implementation of a Public Warning System. The recent floods in Karnataka (Bengaluru), Kerala, and Madhya Pradesh happened on an even much larger scale.

Our Public Warning System (PWS) has proven valuable in effective disaster management. Therefore, an increasing number of governments worldwide are introducing regulations to demand the implementation of Public Warning Systems. Earlier this year, at the request of Ukraine government we installed a Cell Broadcast-based PWS to help protect the civilian population in the war in Ukraine.

By providing a modern Public Warning System that helps to save lives, the government shows that it has the people’s best interest at heart in a way that is evident to everyone and that helps to establish and maintain the trusted relationship that is the glue of our societies.

How government must actively consider the technology-based solutions to cope with natural disasters?

Technology with its vast penetration ensure last-mile reach to the majority of the population. With overall prevalence and adoption of mobile phones and related technologies, a cell based broadcast-based solution is the technology of choice to help mitigate natural disasters. It is important to make sure that the technology works on older software versions as well as on older phone models like feature phones, as not every citizen will have only the newest devices. Solution providers may tend to focus on the newest technology on the market, which is often only available to the more affluent population. Therefore, the government plays a key role in defining requirements for a solution in a public tender and its mass implementation by ensuring that the interest of all members of society is represented.  Moreover, it is very important to have all mobile network service providers on board to really ensure full coverage.  This will help in enabling majority of the population to receive warnings as their network provider is enrolled on the system. And last but not least: while a cell broadcast-based solution ensures a high level of coverage in the population, any solution aimed at disaster prevention should also be able to send alerts out through other channels as well or be connected to existing public infrastructure, for example, public loudspeaker systems or sirens. These public infrastructure is developed by the constant efforts and investments from the government in advanced technologies for citizen welfare.

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