How Google, Tesla and Facebook apply innovative technology to recovery efforts after natural disasters

October 9, 2017 - City / Tech

The destruction to Puerto Rico caused by Hurricane Maria has been devastating and has set the island back decades.

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The response from the U.S. mainland has poured a truckload of salt directly into the wound. With a President that’s barely going through the motions and has to be forced to lift a finger to send aid, Puerto Rico has to not only deal with real everyday problems in a enormous recovery effort (involving infrastructure, logistics, bureaucracy, death and disease) but an overwhelming feeling of “they don’t matter to us.”

if there’s any good news to be had from the lack of action and continued disrespectful actions of Donald Trump, is that it has provided an opportunity for non-governmental agencies to step forward, take action and implement creative solutions.

Google, Tesla and Facebook are Using Technology to Help Rebuild Puerto Rico

With 88% of the island still without power, Google, Tesla, and Facebook, three of the world’s most well-known and innovative technology companies have stepped up with not just donations, but futuristic solutions that can speed up some of the recovery. Specifically, the three companies are using their technology to help bring power, electricity and communication back to the small Caribbean island.

Google is leveraging Project Loon to create network connectivity to remote areas via high altitude balloons. Project Loon was created several years ago and has helped other countries in recovery efforts:

Loon was developed by X, part of Alphabet’s innovation group. It was able to help Peru earlier this year, amidst significant flooding and hopes to replicate this success. Yet before it proceeds with its plans in Puerto Rico, Loon needs to find a carrier network to partner with. Loon had already been working with Telefonica in Peru, which sped up the process.

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As it stands, the project is still looking for a telco partner to get the project going. The Loon project is a network of giant Wi-Fi balloons that behave similarly to weather balloons and rise to a height above 60,000 feet. The balloons can stay in the air up to 100 days.

The company’s CEO Sundar Pichai said that they’re putting up $1 million (from company and employees) in donations to organizations such as The Red Cross and UNICEF, to help recovery efforts.

What started out as a response to a tweet asking Tesla for help has turned into tangible aid for Puerto Rico. Elon Musk and Tesla has agreed to to divert some of their company’s resources to help “increase battery production for Puerto Rico and other affected areas.” IN addition, Musk personally donated $250,000 to the rebuilding efforts.

To aid with emergency telecommunications support, Facebook has sent over a “connectivity team” to the island. Facebook is also donating $1.5 million to recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The donation is be divided with the World Food Program and Net Hope, a consortium representing several nonprofits and tech companies.

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Needed Technological Innovation

When a natural disaster hits, the response and recovery depends on relief organizations’ access and resources. From a personal level, we can donate to these relief organizations so they can do what they do best. That’s how we’re used to helping.

With Google, Facebook and Tesla directing some of their knowledge, money and technology to help solve common issues suffered by disaster-affected areas, usual timelines can be improved, new more efficient solutions can speed up the recovery, and technology can be applied to help keep loved ones more easily-connected. World-class technology companies have changed our everyday lives, now when they step forward after natural disasters, they have the potential to forever change how organizations, cities, and government agencies view recovery and rebuilding efforts.

› tags: Elon Musk / facebook / Google / hurricane maria / Innovation / natural disaster / natural disasters / Project Loon / Puerto Rico / speed / technology / tesla /

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