Crowdsourced water and medicine tracking via SMS

05 Jul 2012

For all the hype over smartphones and tablets and apps and the cloud and LTE transforming the mobile landscape, the world is still primarily a feature-phone experience. That’s encouraged operators and others to get creative with relatively low-tech tools, and the results can be pretty innovative.

Here’s two interesting examples from the last month alone:

1. Crowdsourced water availability alerts

NextDrop has developed a solution for cities where water services tend to be unreliable and unpredictable – the water is available for only a few hours a day and there’s no way to know when.

NextDrop’s solution employs SMS and crowdsourcing to alert residents when the water will be available, reports Fast Company:

Utility employees call NextDrop's interactive voice response system when they manually open neighborhood water valves. The system generates text message updates for local residents (most of whom have cell phones) 30 to 60 minutes before water delivery. Residents are also contacted by the system randomly to verify the accuracy of the information given by the valvemen. Updates from the utility employees are also turned into Google Maps-based streaming visual data so that engineers can track valve status throughout the city in real time.

2. Medicine supply chain management

Malaria is a serious health problem in sub-Saharan Africa, and part of the challenge is actually getting medicines to patients in remote rural areas with poor access to health services, as there’s no good way to manage the supply chain, which means there’s no way to anticipate when medicine supplies run out.

A pilot project in Tanzania called SMS for Life – a public private partnership between Novartis, IBM, Vodafone, the Roll Back Malaria Partnership and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of Tanzania – simplifies the process of monitoring the availability of drugs in remote health centers using SMS and mobile mapping, The Guardian reports:

Vodafone and Greenmash, a UK-based company, are two technology suppliers that provide systems that use SMS to prompt healthcare staff in rural facilities to check the remaining weekly stock of medicines. Health facility workers reply with an SMS to a toll-free number, and are rewarded with free airtime for their responses to weekly stock requests. This information is then stored in a central database. The district management team can monitor stock levels remotely and in real-time via the Internet, a smart phone or e-mail and re-distribute existing medicines or schedule new drug deliveries when and where they are needed.

NOTE: Both stories glommed from the SMS blog Textually.

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