PH’s ISDApp for fishermen competes in NASA Space Apps Challenge finals

BATTLING with the unpredictability of the ocean and the sea is a struggle that Filipino fishermen go through day in and day out.

They go out for their livelihood and, more often than not, their family’s sustenance.

Now, consider the fickle weather and a dearth of technology to help them tide over, like a smartphone and internet connectivity for information, say, scientific data they can use before they sail off to their fishing grounds.

Three Filipino information technology (IT) professionals want to help them out, specially the underprivileged fishermen.

Fishermen in Philippines among poorest

A study by the Philippine Statistics Office (PSO) in 2017 had established that farmers, fishermen, and children of low-income families have consistently been among the poorest of the country’s nine basic sectors.

The Filipinos who dubbed themselves “iNON” (it’s Now or Never), have developed a solution for poor fishermen, which parlayed into the ISDApp: Bridging Fishermen to Information with Analog Phones.”

NASA space apps challenge site - Science and Digital News

Image: Team iNON through NASA Space Apps Challenge site.

IT professionals RevBrain G. Martin, Marie Jeddah Legaspi, and Julius Czar Torreda entered their app in the 2018 Space Apps Challenge of the National Aeronautics and Space Development (NASA), and won in the local level in the country during the October 19-21 event at De La Salle University (DLSU), Malate, Manila.

DLSU, the United States Embassy, and PLDT staged the challenge.

They won, receiving Php5,000 cash prize.

But the bigger prize and recognition await six winners in the global finals of the NASA Space Apps Challenge to be known in mid-January 2019.

In an email to SDN — Science and Digital News, Michael Lance M. Domagas, it was learned that ISDApp will be one of the 25 qualifiers in the 2019 finals out of the 2,729 teams across the world.

He described the event as “the biggest hackathon in the Universe.”

According to NASA’s event website, the finalists will vie for six awards, such as Best Use of Data, Best Use of Hardware, Best Mission Concept, Galactic Impact, Most Inspirational, and Best Use of Science. Space Apps is a NASA incubator innovation programs.

NASA space apps sample - Science and Digital news

Image: through NASA Space Apps Challenge site.

The next Space Apps Challenge will be staged on October 18-19, 2019. Space Apps 2018 attracted more than 18,000 participants who competed in over 200 events across 75 countries.

Judging of the finalists are presently ongoing. NASA will announced the six winners in mid-January, and they will receive an invitation to visit NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

International hackathon to solve Earth, space problems

NASA’s “Space Apps is an international hackathon for coders, scientists, designers, storytellers, makers, builders, technologists, and others in cities around the world where teams engage with NASA’s free and open data to address real-world problems on Earth and in space.”

For the Filipino winners they crafted their app “to effectively communicate scientific data as useful information to underprivileged fishermen, even if they don’t have smartphones and internet connection.”

They said there are 90 percent small-scale fishermen in many parts of the world who use traditional fishing techniques, and they are part of the 3.4 billion people who have no internet connection; their means of communication is a “basic” cellphone, the analog phones.

“We saw the problem, figured we could do something,” the group said.

With ISDApp, Team iNON wants to brighten the future of fishermen in developing countries by building “an app to communicate and improve the ordinary fishermen’s understanding of the sea and weather by connecting them to useful information, even if they don’t have smartphones and internet connection.”

They are essentially empowering fishermen through access to data and information that can help them improve their fishing activities and safety with only their analog phones.

Information such as:

  • Weather and Cloud Coverage – Safety comes first. Also, clouds prevent light from penetrating the water. It is strategic to know when a school of fish aggregate at one spot, or where they spread in the sea.
  • Sunrise/Sunset – The hour before dawn and the 2 hours afterward are the most popular with fishermen working the early morning shift. Two hours before dusk and an hour afterward (before complete darkness) are prime time for fishing.
  • Wind Speed – Aside from safety, the wind can stir up the food chain and provide more cover from the sun due to the action of waves.
  • ISDApp also has its emergency features which include alerts on impending storms:ISDApp also has its emergency features which include alerts on impending storm.

Embedded emergency features

Aside from information, the developers of ISDApp also built-in emergency features such as alerts on impending storms.

​”The app can send emergency alert to all the community members. A fisherman can send an SOS message by texting ‘SOS’ and sending it to 1564 to notify the town official and the fisherman’s registered contact person in case of emergency.”

Yes, that’s how ISDApp works for a fisherman armed only with an analog phone.

“With ISDApp, one connection serves all. A town official with a smartphone can install the app, and register all the fishermen’s details and contact number in a particular coast community. ISDApp sends vital information to registered analog phones hours before fishing time so they can plan ahead and optimize their action,” the developers explained.

They said they plan to seek partnership with a telecommunications company to implement the app’s SMS text blasting, improvement and maintenance.

Moving ahead, they said they would be embedding NASA Globe Observer data such as tides, water temperature, and barometric pressure. (EKU) — Sources: NASA Space Apps Challenge 2018 website, Michael Lance Domagas.




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