SMS as part of Early Warning System

Posted on January 12, 2005  /  93 Comments

SMS enlisted for Tsunami warning system?

By Ben Charny, CNET
Monday, January 10 2005 11:55 AM

At least five countries have begun developing an alert system using cell phone text messages, a response to the catastrophic Asian tsunami that exposed flaws in present-day early warning schemes.

Discussions among officials in India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand, which were hard hit by the killer tsunami, along with France, have begun in just the last few days, according to a source familiar with the plans.

The goal is to supplement older systems that proved little help for nations in the path of the immense waves in late December that have so far killed more than 140,000 people in 11 countries. Already emerging from the wreckage are tales of emergency workers and stricken residents using SMS (short message service) to aid in rescue efforts or keep in touch with loved ones. Sri Lankan officials have already used text messages to distribute information on how to get aid.

“We hope to have something tangible in place by mid-April,” said Greg Wilfahrt, executive vice president and co-founder of SMS.AC, a wireless e-mail provider that has relationships with carriers in 170 nations. The company has offered its infrastructure and carrier connections to become the basis of the SMS warning system. SMS.AC is also coordinating the talks between the various nations.

Using SMS as an early warning system makes sense in theory, though it would be immensely difficult to carry out, according to analysts. Because cell phone owners typically carry their handsets with them, cell phones could be a much more suitable means of relaying information instantly to those in harm’s way. Existing warning systems funnel warnings through various intermediaries and rely on televisions or radios.

Yankee Group analyst John Jackson said the effort could have an enormous upside, given that most phones now are capable of sending and receiving text messages. However, coordination could be a big headache. “It could mitigate the capital expense of setting up sirens and other bits of early warning systems,” he said. “But one of the major problems could be who’s going to assure that message actually gets through?”,39037080,39212474,00.htm


  1. Considering that Sri Lanka has a mobile penetration of 7% and India 5% and Indonesia 8%, we are talking about a very small number of citizens who will actually be reached through this medium. I am all for utilizing multiple communication networks to have redundancy and a robust communication warning mechanism (that’s why the Internet was built in the first place), but at what cost? If the initiative is private, I think it is a great idea, but if tax-payer’s money is going to be used for such a system, may be we need to have a debate first on its cost effectiveness.

    Germany has come up with 40 million euros to fund a tsunami warning system for Sri Lanka and Indonesia that among other things will use SMS to communicate with regional data centres in case of a tsunami.

  2. [Excuse the multiple posts, the blog software doesn’t allow me to post more than two links in a reply, for the moment].

    The author in the article below argues that SMS could be used as an adjunct, not replacement of regular warning system. He also raises the point that Rohan has in the past, you would require a central, responsible authority to issue the warning SMS to prevent hoax warnings. The additional point I would make is that even if SMS were issued by a central authority, how can an individual know that? How can the genuineness be authenticated?

    In the link below there are examples of government that have used SMS as a warning mechanism.

  3. Dear Divakar

    Sri Lanka do have over a million mobile phones
    None of these function in Local Languages
    Most of the persons who use these Mobiles do not understand English

    Going back to the same problem an in the e-govenance page

    All this is lack of Sinhala and Tamil individual character allocation table

    First the SMS will have to function in Local languages even to send a hoax mgs!!!!!!

  4. The use of SMS is affected not only by penetration issues as pointed out by Divakar, but also by congestion. At a time of disaster, network performance goes down because of the spike in usage. Circuit-switched systems crash, like they do in SL after bombs and on Dec 26th. Packet-switched systems like SMS go slow, sometimes as slow as 3-4 hrs.

    When we thought of putting mobile phones on the National Hospital ambulances this is what stopped us. We ended up putting a more robust trunk mobile system on the ambulances.

  5. For more information on the use of wireless:

    Disaster Preparedness and Recovery: A Priority for Telecom Regulatory Agencies in Liberalized

    Anderson, P.S. & Gow, G.A. (2001, June 28).
    The wireless revolution: Emerging opportunities and hidden risks for the emergency management communities. Paper presented at 5th International Conference on Technology, Policy and Innovation, den Haag, The Netherlands. At:

    Anderson and Gow are names worth searching for.

  6. I do not know whether this is practical. But how about linking an emergency phone system with RTNs/VGKs? I do not think emergency phone system per se will be of much use because it will not be used frequently. When a system is not used frequently, everyone involved loses their interest and the effectiveness of the system can naturally go down. (Please note in India the system used by MS Swaminathan foundation to warn villagers was a system they were already using daily to pass weather information to fishermen.) We have two problems: A low telecom penetration at the rural level and lack of an emergency warning system. Can’t we think of a single INTEGRATED solution?

  7. I was living in Japan over two decades
    We do experiance earthquakes almost monthly
    Mostly very mild ones around 2 or less in the scale
    BUT sometimes we get earthquakes around 3+
    When these happen eventhough there is not much of a visible damage people start calling each other
    This sudden inflow of call to any area automatically switch off the system

    Japan has taken a very simple solution
    They request public to use Televison and incase of loss fo power transistor Radio.

    We all had to have enough dry rations and water to survive for two to three days
    All evacuation points are maked. The locations are given to the public and clarly maked on public roads.

    When things go worng the aid agencies know exactly where to send the stuff.
    The public know exactly where to go.

    The Kobe earthquake death toll was under 7,000 eventhough there was a higher human density than our tsunami. Tsunami area may be larger than the Kobe earthquake but the human density per square kilo is very much less in Sri Lanka.

  8. Telephone/trunk radio is for emergency service providers only. The public has to be reached through radio/TV and sirens. My reference to the national hospital and the Anderson-Gow work was to point to the difficulties of using telephones even for emergency providers.

  9. Yes Rohan you are correct

    The telephone companies in Japan do have selected phone lines and mobiles set up for these personals

    Any way there is a strong posiibility that land lines will go dead; even mobiles will go dead if the transmitting stations are effected. Then the solution is satallite communication but it is expensive

    TV and the radio is the best form of one way communication in an emergency. All stations do participate on emergency programs and relay the same context. The NHK have developed a system even if the TV is switched off a special signel is sent and the TV gives a warning sound.

    The evacuation areas do have special communication systems

  10. Given that most of our TVs and radios are Japanese branded (if not manufactured), there may be value in checking out the possibilities of adopting the described NHK system. Possibly the chips are already in the receiving equipment.

  11. Dear Rohan

    I have already informed the NHK that I would like to get more information
    Once I get the information shall post it on this page
    Rohan you can takeover from that point onwards
    If you need any help in the japanese language I will help you

  12. This is interesting. When a TV is put off by the remote controller (as it is done in many cases) it goes to ‘hibernation’ mode. At least the one we have at our place does. (a Sony) So unless otherwise it is physically disconnected from the power supply, it is theoretically ‘on’ – indicated by a glowing LED. So it should be possible to use a TV in the hibernation mode for a disaster warning. The problem is sometimes people physically disconnect the TVs at night – particularly if the weather seems to be bad. However, if we can instruct the public not to physically disconnect the TVs at night and to keep them in hibernation mode, that will be the best system to warn them in the middle of the night. I will explore the possibilities, with my friends in communication engineering.

    Divakar, if we can have this system it will answer some of the concerns you have raised at the colloquium.

    (For Dr. Arun Mehta, if you read this please let us know what you think.)

  13. To the best of my knowledge, Sinhala and Tamil SMS’ing is around the corner in Sri Lanka. I’ve already seen a prototype of the system running my Nokia phone (on Java) and it is quite impressive, and importantly, seems as easy to use as English SMS’ing.

    There are also other technologies out there that I am working with that using a any touch tone phone can alert via SMS, fax, email or a proprietary systemwide alert when certain thresholds are crossed. The system also has voice recognition in Sinhala / Tamil / English – so if you scream blue murder, although the system cannot guarantee action, it can most definitely send the alerts within seconds to the relevant authorities.

    We are planning to use this in a pilot programme this year. The entire system is voice driven (again, in Sinhala / Tamil / English) and can give a real time indicator of problem areas on GIS and also in a tabular form, broken down however you want it to be displayed as.

    As is evident in this discussion and on others on these forums, the technology is not the stumbling block, but the political will to ensure positive change and concrete action.

  14. Dear Sanjana

    I know that Nokia is doing for Hindi.

    The problem here is data compatibility. English is written using the LATIN CODE. You use the same Latin code to write German or Bhasha Malaysia.(any other latin code base language)

    Unfortunately for Sinhala the unicode sinhala set is incomplete.
    We do not have a proper registered allocation table
    “Text Data” written in one application is not compatible with another.

    Nobody understand this issue!!! or try to correct this problem before we head into a major software crisis.

    When other countires recalim the sea and make land we are just running away from the sea by 200 meters into inland . The British constrcuted the rail road well inside the land. BUT our people just waited without doing any preventive action for sea erosion . That is why the rail road is very close to the sea shore today. We got to recalim the land at least to the point where British had. Then this 100 meter sea front issue will not come.

    Likewise we will wait until a ICT tsunami to correct the Sinhala issue

  15. Dear Donald,

    As I mentioned in my post, the Sinhala character set is Java based and will be a Java application that will run on compatible handsets. Your point is valid, but the app is a very effective workaround, enabling compatible phones to SMS Sinhala / Tamil with ease.


  16. Dear Sanjana

    The problem here is not Java, Will a SMS originates from Nokia will be able to read by a Sony Ericson or any other mobile phone Not as an image but as text.

    For this to happen a correct allocation table is required.

    If this is not hapenning What ever the text SMS originates from Nokia will only be able to read by a Nokia

    I object for this type of incompaibility of data. We got to correct this problem. Open your eyes


  17. Looks like the problems are solved :)

  18. Dear Sylvia

    Sorry it is only for Microimage
    The character allocation table is not published any where
    SLS1134 and Sinhala Unicode charts are incorrect and Micorimage is not based on SLS1134
    Microimage has its own table and a patent is pending

    Visit and read all links in my web page

  19. Dear Donald,

    I am well aware of the Limitations of Unicode and ISCII and sympathize with your goal.

    But we need an early warning system now and when SMS is considered as a possible part in that we can’t afford to wait until Unicode is eventually up to your standard. Microimage seems to have a working solution within the present standard.

    Seen the commentary by Microimage on your page to your claim that words/sentences couldn’t be typed in fact could be typed the problem that you have with Unicode seems to be outside the scope of the subject of this entry.

    So there are some characters that do not appear in SLS 1134 at present, but then that doesn’t need to be a problem in an SMS warning. Can you give an example where it would be?

  20. Dear Donald,

    Would be very interested in how you can enlighten us and help us open our eyes by any suggestions you can give to help move the ideas in this forum forward?

    I am sure all of us have much to learn from your erudition and your inimitable mode of expression.



  21. Dear Sanjana and Sylvia

    Unconditionally SMS should be a part of EWS or DWS.

    But we got to understand that most people in Sri Lanka who use Mobiles have very low knowledge in English Language. They are very comforatble in using Sinhala and Tamil. Even according to the constitution of Sri Lanka we have to work in Sinhala and Tamil not in English

    Public should be given the opportunity to use any character in the sinhala alphabet.
    Sri Lanka will have to send the table to unicode to register. Unicode accept the National STD of any country.

    The text gernerated in one mobile system should be compatible with another mobile system
    (like english ,German, Japanese , Korean etc)

    For this to happen all must use the same table. The input methods applications OS can be differ. The text remains the same. Nobody understand this point.

    Sri Lanka’s ICTA is responsible for this task. They are not doing this for reasons unknown.

  22. I thought of dropping a note since Sinhala/Tamil SMS and it’s importance been discussed.

    Let me highlight Microimage’s position and it’s mobile messaging future,

    Microimage has successfully designed and developed the most user friendly Sinhala/Tmail Mobile Messaging System. The present product which is available to download through Dialog GSM supports typing and sending a message as MMS/Email or Unicode Email. And this product supports any Java Enabled handsets including the low end Java phones which are now available for around Rs. 12,000/=. We will be releasing an updated version soon, which will have SMS/MMS/Email/Unicoed Email capabilities in one application which is a Java based solution. Microimage will be releasing a version for Windows based Smart Phone as well, which will interoperate with Java. So whether the handset is SonyEricsson, Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, LG or even unbranded Chinese, this product will facilitate Sinhala/Tamil messaging on Java and Mobile Windows where it covers all required platforms.

    This product will be available to most of the people through other operators as well, if they decide to move ahead. Dialog GSM who has the largest mobile base, is quite committed and working closely with Microimage on these innovations, and we have so many interesting things under review which will be available in near future. I must say within a short period of 3 weeks since it’s release ,application has been downloaded at a significant rate, and been used. We hope this momentum continues.

    There is a quite interesting feature coming up which can be used for a Emergency/Warnning system effectively in Sinhala/Tamil on mobiles. We together with operators are quite keen to push this forward to get the best out of it, for warning systems and any other.

    Like above there are many interesting Mobile based Sinhala/Tamil solution on it’s way, which we cant comment in detail at the moment. However, Microimage together with operators who understand the importance of this are committed to drive this forward without wasting time to create enabling environment for true Sinhala/Tamil mobile messaging and information solutions.

    We are a company who aggressively like to innovate required solutions to enable Sinhala/Tamil on any platform from Desktop to Mobile. We have successfully completed the keyboard engines for DESKTOP Windows and provided the pack to ICTA and other non-profit organizations as well to be used and distribute FREE. Unicode SLSI 1134 is in it’s early stage, and it will evolve with so many applications as software designers like Microsoft/Microimage to many others are committed to this standard.

  23. “Unicode SLSI 1134 is in it’s early stage,” this is where you all have gone wrong
    Sinhala language do have a history over 2000 years
    One cannot have an ‘early stage’ in HI tech of my language Sinhala
    This clearly prove my point ( ) SLSI1134 is incorrect and need to be corrected
    Do not ruin the Language Sinhala by having a low standard in the Hi tech area.

    SLS1134 has to be corrected to accormodate all the Sinhala characters ASAP

    Fair trade practice should be followed in Sri Lanka.
    The cahracter table has to be publish for the general public
    SLSI 1134 is not the correct table.
    Microimage do have more Sinhala characters than listed in the SLSI1134.

    Why not keep the free keyboard engine + character set in the web for public to download.

  24. One more question ” This product will be available to most of the people through other operators as well, if they decide to move ahead.”

    This is where the compatibility of ” TEXT ” problem comes in
    If the other mobile system uses another system the data created by Dialog/Microimage will not be compatible with the other user group because of the character table

    If we correct the SLSI1134 these problems will not arise

    EWS & DWS systems will fail in Sri Lanka unless we solve the SLSI1134.

  25. Donald,

    Reading through your website, I’m impressed by the work you’ve already done in this field. What, according to you, are the problems in implementing / promoting the use of / advocating the adoption of SLSI1134?


  26. Dear Donald,

    We (entire Unicode team – ICTA/Prof. Sam/University of Colombo/Linux User group/Microsoft/Science Land and others), have argued with you many times over this and explained how SLSI 1134 work. We have even now proven it works, and there is no problem implementing the same. I think it’s no point wasting time critizing which is baseless when all the other industry players embraced this and moving forward.

    What I meant fromt “early stages” in above is again taken in wrong spirit. I meant that SLSI standard will be launched on the 8th Feb, hence the applications will start to be available thereafter only. I am confident that from wordprocessing applications to text to voice/OCR etc.etc, will be available time to come on this standard.

    It’s no point arguing and pointing fingers at something without proving technically. Microimage, and other above players have proven. I kindly request you to participate in future UNICODE sessions whenever they take place, so that your doubts will be cleared.

    Further mobile interoperability you’ll will see in future when this happens, the way we answer critics is, by technically proving ourselves.


  27. As Harsha says, we have proven that SLS1134 works, and in fact the SLS standard document itself uses SLS1134 in its examples, etc. We have shown that it can be used to write *all* Sinhala text, and even Pali and Sanskrit written in Sinhala script.

    At this point, saying that SLS1134 is incomplete and unworkable is plain *wrong* as it does work complely, right now.

    As pointed out by Harsha, we should now concentrate on getting applications, such as SMS out so our people can use them, not delay things further.


  28. Gihan / Harsha,

    Having seen the SMS sinhala app in action (before I left Sri Lanka), I must say I was duly impressed. I am not a swabhasha expert however, and am clueless about SLS1134. If however, you implementation builds on existing standards and strengthens them, I see no problem.

    The reason I am interested in this is because this year Info Share intends to partner with another agency to implement a conflict early warning and prevention system – I’d like very much for the system to use Sinhala and Tamil SMS messaging as an integral part of information gathering.

    On another note, it might also be useful (unless I have not found out where this is) to get a list of users and their affiliations, so that we can all be clear who each other is on these fora.



  29. SLSI1134 do have only 80 + characters and total table is 128

    You got to prove using only this incomplete SLSI1134 you can image all the sinhala characters

    You cannot use any hidden set or sets of characters but only SLSI1134

    Go public and prove in Sinhala!!!!

    Microimage do have the SLSI1134 + many other individual sinhala characters!!!! in their system

    I object to this incomplete SLSI1134 !!!! proposed by a set of xxxxxx in Sri Lanka who wants to ruin the sinhala language forever.


  30. Dear Sanjana

    I am an Image Technologist a Professional Printer
    I know what is typology & typography

    Members in this SLSI1134 do not have any qualification in Printing and Publishing Industry.
    They know nothing about letters (characters).


  31. Dear Donald,

    Lest we forget, nobody wants the ruination of the Sinhala language, even if the argument may be that the primacy given to it and the peoples who speak it led the deplorable ethnic relations in Sri Lanka.

    Let us also be humble in learning from others – Sri Lankans, I have discovered, when their moral fibre or intellectual rigour is tested, oftentimes use a seniority principle to excuse the failings of hyper-inflated egos. It is a singular tragedy of the Sri Lankan education system that we lay so much emphasis on paper qualifications, when they mean so little.

    To be qualified in a certain field or vocation means nothing – you can be a qualified driver, but still be awful at it, as even a brief sortie into Colombo’s roads show.

    Far more useful that merely brushing aside those who obviously have the knowledge and committment to a certain ideal, is to engage with them and help, best one can, to design systems and processes that are sustainable, push the limits of what is possible, are culturally resonant and empower local communities to take action.

    Your work is very impressive and you may have a lot to contribute to this on-going discussion.

    However, your brusque manner, misplaced sensitivities, inability to engage constructively, penchant for accusations and a myriad of other follies demostrably visible in this forum prevents us from taking you seriously.

    This is a great pity, since apart from comic relief, there does not seem to be much to hold one’s attention to your interjections.

    Very best,


  32. I am a web-designer.

    The lack of a Unicode keeps me from producing any local content, for clients mainly. It’s a huge problem for getting Sri Lanka on the Net. Asking people to download fonts and stuff is completely unworkable.

    SLSI1134 looks fine. Sinhala Unicode is like 10 years overdue, because of bickering and nitpicking. Tamil and most other languages have Unicode, but Sri Lankans have been bitching about Upsalla and Poopsala for so long that web designers have absolutely nothing to work with.

    At this point I don’t care if it has 4 characters. As long as it lets me say ‘Balu’ and produce some local content I’m happy.

  33. Wow! With this one, there are already 33 comments for this single item! We are getting into a very dynamic debate. During the first days of the LIRNEasia site, our worry was how to encourage more to use the site. (In the LIRNEasia model the general public is treated as a key stakeholder!) It seems we have reached a level all of us can be very happy. Congrats Indi, for being the webmaster of a very dynamic site!

  34. Dear Indi

    The problem is not Sinhala UNICODE but the content of it

    The SLSI 1134 registered sinhala list is not enough to produce your word “Balu”

    See the Sinhala unicode chart SLSI1134 and give me the single (four digit) code for the character “lu”

    SLSI1134 cannot stand on its own. It is incomplete.

    Microimage SMS system is not a working model for SLSI1134

    Microimage and Linux group do use SLSI1134 ++ several other sinhala individual character sets

    Why cant you admit this simple fact and publish it to the general public

    Once you do it the next step is to correct the SLSI1134 ASAP

  35. Dear Sanjana,

    Microimage is more than happy to provide our expertise for your warnning systems and related work. Feel free to communicate if you need assistance in this area.


  36. Dear Harsha,

    That’s very kind of you.

    My email is We are currently brainstorming ways in which we can use the lowerst common denominator, in terms of accessibility to ICT in Sri Lanka – the touch tone telephone (PSTN / Mobile) – to create a pilot project using a system that uses Sinhala / Tamil and English (depending on the person) to create systems for monitoring aid delivery, matching needs on the ground with local, regional and international resources and then using this framework in a larger context – to create systems that can map conflict, mitigate it and hopefully, by getting enough timely information to relevant stakeholders, in some cases, even prevent communal violence.

    We cannot use computers in this endeavour since they require too much of training and are too rooted to a geographical location. Laptops are better, but one has to address a myriad of other issues – like cost, maintainance etc.

    We want to use swabhasha SMS technology, hopefully using what you’ve developed, along with the ubiquity of mobile phones in Sri Lanka even in areas with little or no PSTN connectivity, to create a cheap, effective and sustainable network that is resilient enough to address a variety of tasks – from conflict mapping, early warning and prevention, to responding to large scale natural / man-made disasters.



  37. Dear Harsha & Sanjana

    We all welcome your assistance for the EWS and DWS program

    The final problem is how to communicate with the public.
    The source of communication has to be in Sinhala and Tamil

    Today this cannot be implement on a general common platform
    To edit, read & correct Sinhala and Tamil text.

    The Sinhala and Tamil data text created by company “A” application is not compatible with company “B” application.

    The reason is very simple because the SLSI1134 is incomplete.

    Go and tell this fact to the general public.

    I am the only person 1/1,900,000 is objecting and raising this important issue. ( This is ICT EWS and DWS

    Sri Lanka Prime Minister has only an English Language web site which can be seen on any OS.
    Hon P.M’s web site has to be in all three languages (according to our constitution) and unconditionally must be able to see in any of the present Operating Systems (OS) sold in the open market. (e.g. Unix, Linux, any Microsoft OS , Apple OS etc)

    The PM’s web master is incapable of giving a Sinhala and Tamil “text” site for our leader which will run on any OS. Hon P.M. cannot have a web site in his own mother tongue “Sinhala”!!! Hon P.M. supposed to be our IT minister too !!!

    With this position how can we have EWS and DWS in Sinhala and Tamil !!!!

  38. Indi & other web masters,

    Unicode based font packs will be avialable soon with Sinhala Keyboards. Microimage has already released one (2 fonts and related drivers) and it will be avaialble soon (coming weeks). And also you can download from a MS compatible Unicode font etc. Also microimage intends to release more tools/fonts to people like you to create and enable unicode based Sinhala sites which are interoperable with ease.

    If you are on Open Source you can visit and find out the respective sinhala fonts and downloads.

    It’s the web masters like you who needs to take this forward by creating content in Sinhaleese Unicode which is quite important for everyone.


  39. At the 27th Internationalization and Unicode Conference, April 6-8 2005 in Berlin, Germany the Challenges of Enabling IT in the Sinhala Language will be addressed

  40. Chanuka,

    It seems the FCC is looking into your suggestion: DTV alerts that could turn TVs and radios on automatically so residents could receive warnings even when the device is turned off.

    This Is Not a Test

  41. Rohan,

    Wireless Priority Service is available in Canada since November 23, 2004
    I read in Disaster Preparedness and Recovery: A Priority for Telecom Regulatory Agencies in Liberalized
    Environments that:
    “The Sri Lankan operators expressed concern that the existence of a priority system in one network and not in
    another could be used as a low-profile marketing tool against the former, because most consumers would not like the idea of being dropped from the network in a disaster situation.”

    This Canadian WPS “is an enhancement to basic mobile service that allows Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness (PSEP) calls to queue for the next available service channel while minimizing impact on consumer access to the same wireless infrastructure. WPS will not, however, preempt a call in progress, nor will it guarantee the completion of priority calls.”

    So there need not be concern for that.

  42. Dear Sylvia,

    A fact not known to many is that Sri Lanka is a signatory to the Tampere Convention, which lays down some frameworks for communications in disasters. More details of this can be found at

    Your concerns are addressed in this convention, which in early January 2005, came into effect.

    Tragedy is that though Sri Lanka has both signed and ratified this convention, no one back home seems to know that we have done so, and create emergency communications frameworks that fully use the systems that this convention binds us to.

    Article 2 and 3 address your points above – for a synopsis, see



  43. Dear all,

    Just a thought.

    When we speak of warning systems that use the television, it might be worth considering that not all of Sri Lanka is electrified, and than the delivery systems are not as good as the Global North. In a disaster, it may be the case that the eletricity grid falls victim, immediately rendering any early warning system based on it inoperable.


  44. In Sri Lanka we have a many areas covered by Electricity than telephones (incl mobiles)
    The 30+ km range and geographic patteren in Lanka limit the acess of mobiles to a 10km range or less.
    There are problems in getting land to built towers and electricity to the towers. Further more interconnecting it (hub) to the land line is a night mare in Sri Lanka. None of the above problem faced by the mobile compaines are openly discussed.

    Even when the Tsunami hit the first indication was an electricity faliure. It failed by area by area not at once. So in EWS and a DWS there is still a possiblity to warn someone using the the NHK system to swtich on the TV and radio

    NHK sent me a URL but I could not locate the researh article try

    Best source for EWS and DWS is mobile phone SMS and transister radio
    To have a battery operated Radio is a must in all houses in Japan. This gives correct information.

    I will Hv to anser Kuus on the unicode conferance April 2005

    The Keyboard was never an issue or a problem in Sri Lanka. Even if we have a keycaps on qwerty keyboard it will not be possible to use a computer to keyin the characters without the OS having the proper language kit. You know that it is possible to key in even Japanese using any keyboard as long as the OS has the japanese lang kit. They are the laughing stock in Sri Lanka!!!
    To Harsha

    I must thank Harsha for pushing the web masters to use Sinhala and Tamil!!! but it is just a day dream for me!!!

    Is it possible for someone to copy few words of the microimage Sinhala SMS text into a any computer application?

    Indi has not answered my question about the “lu”

    I repeat the question again
    ” See the Sinhala unicode chart SLSI1134 and give me the single (four digit) code for the character “lu””

    To all

    So many people have got angry with me for exposing Sinhala and Tamil Character issue.
    1/1,900,000 will fight and 1/1,900,000 had proved the fact without reasonable doubt .
    By March I will publish the full Sinhala Characters with K/T codes for 32 bit encoding.
    I have already taken the ISBN number. Once it is out of the press shall let you know.

  45. Two points on Sanjana’s last remark.

    One: According to the latest Consumer survey done by the Statistics Dept of Statistics, Central Bank of Sri Lanka (the results are not yet officially out) 75% of the households in Sri Lanka have electricity, 80% have a Radio and 75% have TV. (This implies either all houses that have electricity are equipped with TVs or a small percentage uses TVs by car batteries, which I am not sure.) Anyway, my point is the so-called ‘rural’ Sri Lanka is much better off than we think. Also it might not be necessary to have a TV or Radio at every home. May be a single TV or Radio can warn the community. I still think it is more practical for us to use TV and Radio for this purpose than thinking of more high tech solutions. If SLBC could warn the public about the 1978 cyclone and could save so many lives (as Rohan said in the conference) it might not be difficult to repeat the same.

    Two: Agreed, the first thing that will happen in a disaster is the failure of the electrical grid. (By the way, I am supposed to be an electrical engineer!) But here we talk about the pre-disaster condition and not the post disaster condition. If we can get electricity available for just a 30 minutes of time prior to a hit, that will be more than enough.

    I am trying to be practical here. I doubt any other solution other than a one based on Radios and TVs will work. Any way I am open to alternatives.

  46. Great stats – didn’t know that SL was so electrified !

    One further point – how many of us put TV’s on standby as opposed to knocking the power switch off completely? Does the Japanese technology talked about here actually turn on TV that have been switched off (as opposed to just on standby)?

  47. Two very interesting websites that Info Share is looking at developing:

    and the test results of which can be seen at

    Might be interesting for those in this forum to look at.

  48. Dear Donald,

    1. This elaborate discussion on development Sinhala Unicode and character allocation tables etc. was triggered by the posting I had made in a separate thread ( to your argument that the BIGGEST barrier to eSri Lanka and e-government is your pet peeve we are all familiar with at this point. I had argued that there was a number of private initiatives to develop Sinhala and Tamil Unicode based fonts and it should be left to the market to provide. On the other hand, there are no private entitities that have stepped forward to set-up a truly national backbone infrastructure. And the capital requirements for developing Sinhala Unicode font and for deploying a national backbone are at different levels of magnitude. Initiatives by Microimage and others (including yourself) in this area have vindicated my position.

    2. The “tussle” we are witnessing between yourself and Microimage is a classic standards war! And if you look at the history of standards wars, the “best” standards haven’t necessarily prevailed. Starting from the Edison vs Westinghouse, QWERTY vs Dvorak, Betamax vs VHS, 3Com versus Rockwell and Lucent in modems, there are innumerable examples. As Shapiro and Varian have argued in their “standards war manual,” one of the key assets in winning a standards war is the first-mover advantage. And in order to take full advantage of this asset it is necessary to prempt one’s rivals by introducing even a beta version of the product in the market and build an early lead that leads to positive feedback—more software developers coalesce around the released standard with the expectation it will become the industry standard. It is like a self-fulfilling prophecy…

    There are two aphorisms that come to mind when I read your posts:

    a) Perfection is the enemy of the good
    b) The horse has bolted!

    In your endeavor to create a product that is all-encompassing and reproduces every poopsula and upsala
    flawlessly to the minutest detail–you have been reduced to flailing helplessly as you see the bandwagon with rickety wheels pulled by two horses with asymetric black patches moving ahead and past you. You can join the bandwagon and accept incremental change or be reduced to irrelevance in the standardization process. Please open YOUR eyes! This is not fair, nor is the solution proposed by your rivals perfect, but this is how this game is played. Many of your posts sound like you are whining. I sympathise with your frustrations and feel for all the effort that you have put into Akuru. But may be you can be more effective in playing the game rather than standing in the sidelines and sulking.

    3. Language is a living organism. Language changes due to various factors including technological ones. If language were a static thing we would all be typing and speaking pre-Chaucerian Middle English. But we are not. There is nothing sacred in keeping a language frozen in time and I am unable to empathise with your sorrow to see your beloved “Sinhala” evolve. If dropping a poopsula allows SMS to work, great!

  49. Would this be useful?

    A method for broadcasting a message in a wireless network wherein the message notice, message and termination notice are received from an emergency alert system including a means for responding to activation of one or more control buttons to connect the corresponding mobile station to the broadcast channel to receive the broadcast message

  50. Dear Divakar

    I do not know what is your mother tongue is.

    I do not talk of Language development or of any standard for Sinhala

    I only talk what Sri Lanka had sent to UNICODE for its registration is an incomplete Sinhala alphabet.SLSI1134

    Unconditionally all the Sinhala Characters that is used in Sri Lanka has to be registered with the Unicode.

    You got to know the language to understand what I write. I am talking of year one or two Sinhala (age 6 to 8 years old kids sinhala knowledge is more than enough to solve this problem) Not any advance Sinhala.

    FONT is an art work of an individual or company
    I am not talking of any font/fonts you are on the wrong track

    I talk of correcting the incomplete alphabet SLSI1134 which is registered with the unicode.


    You ask Indi whether he has the ans for the Sinhala character “lu”



    It is on standby mode. a special signal is sent from the NHK .
    TV gives a very high pitch single tone sound followed by news (DWS or EWS)

  51. The combination of terrestrial digital broadcasting and cell phone technology is what the developers want to be used for sending evacuation orders and alarm information to people during large-scale disasters in Japan:

  52. I found this article very informative but maybe in this forum ancient history ….

    Performance Information Systems for Rural Emergency Response:
    Field Examination and Simulation of End-To-End Response Systems

  53. It may not be the most appropriate medium to reach citizens in Sri Lanka but it could function next to that.

    Cell Broadcasting works even in full overload, does not itself contribute to load, will not crash the networks, and can reach 95% of mobile phone users within about 20-30 seconds.

  54. Sylvia is giving us information and links at a rate none of us can practically follow, with our on-going work. But Sylvia, please be ensured that I will definitely have a look at what you send us as soon as I find some time. (Don’t know when!) Many thanks for your concerns and help.

  55. Dear Chanuka,

    :) Rest assured. I noticed Rohan took the possibilities into account in the draft. Since I don’t have a lot to do at the moment (ask Divakar) and have some experience in disaster management I’ll be happy to help out on anything I can do to make your work easier. Just let me know by email.

  56. May be worth looking at : for a different perspective on SMS use that places emphasis on authentication of messages, an aspect that has been neglected in some of our discussions.

  57. Microimage Sinhala/Tamil SMS new release will support receiving of Push SMS messages in Sinhala and Tamil. Basically a Message can be pushed to mobile phones to appear instantly upon receiving on their handset in Sinhala and Tamil, once this is released. When people start using this, any application service can push a warnning or important message to it. This product will support any Java enabled handset and will be available for Microsoft Mobile Winodws based smart phones as well. At present Dialog GSM has launched our earlier version of Sinhala/Tamil messaging product and new version will come out soon through them. Other operators such as Celltel etc, will launch it soon. Within past 3 weeks number of downloads for this app, is quite impressive and it will continue once the new product also comes to market through others.

    Microimage is more than happy to share and assist in any disaster related localized mobile SMS applications and related work.

    To ALL : I am happy to announce today Sri Lanka made history by finally launching the much awaited and debated Sinhala SLS 1134 Unicode Standard. It was attended by all the key stake holders and the number of applications demonstrated on Unicode was quite impressive and is a huge blow to all the critics. Microsoft Corp, did a presentation in Unicode in their famous Office suite, Linux did as well with loads of Sinhala Unicode Applications and showed inter-operability with others, Microimage (Us) demonstrated our SMS product and it’s interoperability with Unicode Sinhala Email which is an extreamly interesting and innovative application, and several other key institutes like University of Colombo, Science Land etc, demonstrated their products.

    I think industry will move forward on this platform with all above players promising to deliver content, Applications such as Voice to Text,OCR and many more in Sinhala. This is quite happy day for all stake holders where after long lapse ICT will be enabled in Sinhala.

  58. SLSI1134 is incomplete and your SMS is not compatible with other net works unless they buy into microimage system which is a act of monopoly, also your SMS system is limited to java enable phones only

    Why not publish the total character set of your SMS system to gernal public and compare it with SLSI1134!!!!

    Microimage do have more sinhala characters than the unicode SlSI1134

    Go public in news media with the matrix.

  59. I just read through these comments.

    If I can’t say Balu that’s a problem…

  60. Dear Indi

    It is not to say but it is unable to write using only the SLSI1134 or Sinhala unicode

    Read Rawaya Newspaper Sunday 20 Feb 2004 page 12

    And comment

  61. Correction

    it should be (2005)

    Read Rawaya Newspaper Sunday 20 Feb 2005 page 12

    I was in down south (Kosgoda/Duwa Modera) on tSunami releif work last weekend. I had a discussion with affected people about the warnning system and their suggesstions, and one person told me that one of the best would be to trigger all POLICE Stations through their radio systems, so that mobile motorcycle petrols will trigger announcement in those village areas to clear immediately. And they will effectively clear people who are even not willing to go, since it’s POLICE. I found in this village several people have died due to the ressistance they have put to leave the premises and some have been wasting time collecting their valued goods, when others were running leaving everything.

    They say POLICE LOUD SPEAKER announcement is very effective in that area and is quite a good method of alerting people concerned.

  63. Not only Police , But Urban councils, Schools , Temples , Churches can have the same loud speaker system. This is practiced and tested in Japan Daily by giving a musical sound at 6pm.

  64. May be of interest: ITU’s take on the use of ICTs in disaster management, including early wanrings:

  65. A much better discussion of possible contributions of ICTs to disaster management from a conference held in Phuket last week. Bill Gates actually says very sensible things.

  66. The piece below talks about cell broadcasting, a much better solution than SMS. I suggest we continue/convert this thread/discussion (the most productive we have had) into a discussion on ICT applications in early warning.

  67. Just so everyone knows is a scam. Don’t think partnering with them is a good option at all. And I must vouch for the use of sms. A couple of us used sms to communicated post tsunami data up and down, and this was quoted in several US papers as well, including NYT and Wash Post. It works very well, even on congested networks in remote places. I say go with SMS.

  68. Yeah, is evil. They ask for your Hotmail password when you sign up and then Spam every one of your contacts. I’m still getting emails from my friends who signed up, or who had a friend who signed up, ad nauseum

  69. On the Sinhala font problem. I’ve been playing with this plugin for WordPress (this website’s blogging software) that converts text to images. Cold Forged wrote it to use rare fonts, and it seems to work just as well for Sinhala fonts (Kaputa Dotcom is all I tested).

    This is a demo post on a non-existant site. The link will probably die soon. I copied some text from and I have no idea what it says:

    Font Demo

    The copied text looks like this:

    @p`@L`n~nr#v 23 vn @s~n`Ak`{QpwQ @m|jr~ @jnr`l~ vjQr vQ@j~gONvr~{n mhw` stn~ vQr`m nQrk;N kmQtRvt p#mQNQlQ kr a#w.

    While writing a post (like writing this comment) I call the plugin like this:

    ?php echo ImageHeadline_render( ‘v#lQkn~q @k`Lknv`dQy pY@q~X@y~qW sQvQl~ v#sQyn~ hy’ );

    It comes out as Sinhala on the other end, whether the user has a Sinhala font installed or not. The thing works by automatically generating an image of the text. The image generation would crash the server under a million or so hits, I think, but it kinda works.

  70. In early January this year, I discussed the possibility of using SMS as a warning medium with a senior executive of one of sri lanka’s biggest mobile operators. He said that it would be impractical as the messages would take about three days to be delivered due to congestion.

  71. Well, one of the best possibility for mobile warnning is through a CELL Broadcast. Cell Broadcast can be used to isolate certain regions and deliver a message. We are working on a possible solution which is in R&D stage and will update everyone once it’s practical and proven.

  72. We at LIRNEasia had never advocated SMS as a method of disseminating warnings. The concept paper recommends cell broadcasts (para 2.28 and para 4.17). Therefore we are pleased that work is being undertaken in this area. It would be good if the cell broadcast can be linked to some form of alerting device in the handset (ringer or vibrator).

  73. Thats what we are working on, basically once we get the cell, we are going trigger a ring tone with a warnning message in all 3 languages.

  74. I have been reliably informed that cell broadcast has been activated throughout the networks of Dialog and Mobitel. It will be helpful if those networks can provide instructions on how users can use this facility, hardware requirements, etc. It will also be useful if Celltel and Hutcheson can join the discussion.

    What this suggests is that we may be close to achieving the object set out in Recommendation 4.17 in the Concept Paper.

  75. A new use of technology that may be worth discussing:

  76. Another disaster; another set of ideas re use of ICTs . . .

    Talking in the Dark

    Published: September 18, 2005

    When was the last time you heard a “busy tone” on a telephone? Probably not for years. Our phone system is so robust, our mobile phones are so ubiquitous and voice mail and e-mail are such reliable backups that instant, unhindered access to friends, colleagues and relatives has come to seem a right and not a privilege. Indeed, if you include instant-messaging, blogs and cellphone text messages, you might think we’re living in the golden age of communications.

    Except when disaster hits. Two weeks ago, I tried calling a colleague down in New Orleans – and found myself listening to the annoying honk of a busy signal and the static of a dead phone line. Katrina had disrupted the city’s communications grid, and residents and emergency responders were grappling with the chaos that ensued. For a week, just about the only people with communications were those government officials and reporters lucky enough to have two-way radios or satellite phones with adequately charged batteries. Everyone else staggered around in blind ignorance – which helped produce horrifying pandemonium. We saw a similar lesson in 9/11: When communications crumble, so does society.

  77. The biggest flaw in this article is if telephone networks are going to be down, how will this wireless mesh network connect to the Internet, to the outside world? Without power, wifi access points will not work either. Such a mesh network may work if some of the nodes were connected to the Internet using a VSAT placed in a disaster resilient building. But the question of back-up power still remains to be addressed. UPS last at the most for a few hours. Maybe something using solar power?

    LIRNEasia is currently working on a research project where we are deploying different kinds of ICTs as a component of the “last mile” of a early warning system in a number of coastal villages in Sri Lanka to assess their effectiveness in the pre/post disaster role. The WiFi solution proposed in the article above could supplement and extend the role played by VSATs, one of five ICTs that will be deployed. In the villages that are deployed with VSAT, we can create a wifi network connected to the Internet via the VSAT, so schools, govt offices, others with wifi enabled PCs can also access the Internet. So we have more pairs of eyes looking for hazard info than just relying on the telecenter. Multiple uses/users gives us a better “bang for the buck” for this relatively expensive technology.

  78. Yes, Divakar is correct. In case of a disaster like caused by Katrina recently, the entire power system and the entire communication system will go down. So whatever the ‘last mile’ solution it will have no impact. But again, we do talk about warning here, so it is PRIOR TO the disaster, NOT AFTER that. Also not every disaster cut off the entire power system and the entire communication system. In some cases, some parts of these systems may still be up. It is a fact that the Police emergency call centre in Colombo (118) received so many messages immediately after the tsunami hit the coasts of Sri Lanka. Some of these messages were interrupted in the middle. So anyway, the point is, having a disaster warning system with some flaws is still much better than having none.

    Let me also add that it will be natural for people to promote certain technologies or even products either for commercial reasons or sometimes because they just love the technology. With or without Katrina there are enough WiFi lovers among us. I do not think we should either accept or reject any technology just because one is promoting it.

  79. what are the technologies and tools we have to use to develop a system for send tamil/singala sms via phone to phone

  80. Fadill, Please read the discussion thread above. The language issues are discussed in depth by people who are directly involved (LIRNEasia is not).

  81. Another plea for the use of SMS in emergency warnings:

    In Sri Lanka after the tsunami, SMS worked but was subject to delays (not all; but most SMS took 3-4 hrs to reach the recipient). The thread above discusses all aspects of the problem. Why are we not focusing on cell broadcasts?

  82. From Kusal Epa:

    Cellular Emergancey Alert System

    The possibility of using SMS broadcast to alert users in a particular area in the event of a disaster is being promoted by CEASA – Cellular Emergency Alert System Association which has taken the initiative of promoting this concept in various countries. Further details are available in the website

    In normal SMS message sending quite a lot of network resources are used to individually address SMS messages to different users. The signicance of this system is that Cell broadcast facility which is available in the GSM system is used to alert users in a required base station area (cell) where the broadcast message is displayed in all phones. As this system uses less netowrk resources even in the event of mobile network being congested the possibility of alerting users is there.

    Copied below is a news item of a Cellular Alert system trial in The Netherlands

    Dutch test sending Disaster Text Messages

    Agence France-Presse

    THE HAGUE, Netherlands

    The Dutch government started testing a special warning system that will send text messages to mobile phones to alert the population in the event of a disaster. The technology for the system, called “cellbroadcast,” allows the authorities to send text messages to mobile phone users in a specific area. On Wednesday the first tests started in Zoetermeer, a town in the west central Netherlands. “The advantage of this system is that it allows us to send messages without having to know the phone numbers of the users in the region. Instead of sending a message to a specific known cell phone you can send a text to all cell phones in specific zone,” Frank Wassenaar of the Dutch interior ministry told AFP.

    The cell broadcast system will be used in addition to the other warning systems in place to be used if disaster strikes, such as sirens and special emergency broadcasts on radio and television. The project is a joint effort of the Dutch ministries of health, transport and economic affairs. The ministries will pay some $three million to use the cell broadcast technology over the next two years.

    The government is working with mobile phone operators KPN, Vodafone and Telfort, which cover some 85 percent of all Dutch cell phone owners. In the future, tests with the system are planned in the Dutch capital Amsterdam and the south western province of Zeeland .

  83. Haven’t this made to the Guinness book of world records yet as the longest blog ever?

    Just kidding. Some news in goes to more than 400-500 comments.

  84. SMS used by victims buried under a massive mudslide to tell rescuers they are alive:

  85. hi i dont know how to connect my phone in to tsunami alert system if anybody knows please informe me im sri lankan boy thanks

  86. The Tsunami Alarm System with SMS to mobile phones is finally there.

    Coupon code for discounts: INDONESIA607PR10

    Please contact me for sales partner (Hotels, Newspapers, Journalists, Travel guides, Shops, …) issues.


  87. Ralph,

    I am someone who visited and had discussions about your SMS based tSunami warnning system during CommunicAsia in Singapore. Eventhough am yet to get a clear idea how your whole thing works (backend), it seems that it’s not a viable warnning method when it comes to country specific warnnings since many issues/areas needs to be covered.

    Some basics facts are,

    – Credibility of the warnning/Warnning Authority, Agency
    – Addressing SMS congestion issues (overloads), are the systems configured through local/country specific operators to ensure priority SMS delivery?
    – Addressing area specific warnnings
    – Localization
    – Practicality of the whole thing

    If you look at this product for general warnning receive method for anyone who’s interested to receive tSunami alerts this might come handy as long as he’s willing to pay a price for it as well. (like tourists etc.) But still it all depends on how effective and credible is your information gathering mechanism and dispatching mechanism etc.

  88. Hi,

    This information may be of interest to people going to the beach and coastal areas, for vacation.
    I came across a very interesting website to do with Tsunami Warnings via SMS to my mobile phone –

    I’d been wondering if there was some service available that I could access while I was on vacation at the beach – I’d heard that there was.

    …and a 3 month “Holiday” subscription only cost me $19 for peace of mind.

    Definitely worth checking out –


  89. There was a very interesting technology that I saw in action recently that used FM radio (stations) to transmit SMS messages to special watches that were able to receive the messages without any GSM / CDMA capability. The ability to use ordinary FM signals to broadcast SMS messages I thought was fascinating. I was told that the device that enabled a radio tower to broadcast SMS messages was about the size of a medium size brick, and would grow smaller as it evolved.


  90. The Indian Govt is promoting a multilingual (14 languages), sms-based alerting system. They claim it will be impervious to traffic jams and will be in place by 2007. In the first posting above in Jan 2005, I had said India had mobile teledensity of 5% and hence only a small fraction of our population will benefit from a mobile-based solutions. The mobile teledensity (CDMA GSM) in one and a half years in India has doubled (!!) and currently (Sept 2006) stands at 11.75% but this number is still too small for mobile-based solutions to reach most people in India. I hope the Indian govt’s conception of a national early warning system does not rest solely on this sms-based solution and they put some hard work in also developing the last-mile of the hazard dissemination system. As LIRNEasia is doing in Sri Lanka.

    Indian have a new disaster management system by 2007: Kapil Sibal
    Sibal on Friday launched a multi-lingual disaster warning system using mobile phones.

    The Indian Meteorological Department will post alerts on its Web site which will be sent as text messages to mobile phones and via wireless public address systems by India-based Geneva Software Technologies, marketing director Amar Singh said.

    However, the alert will not be sent to everyone, as only those cell phone users who are likely to be in the affected area will receive the message.
    Alert in regional languages

    As soon as a warning is sounded, the software converts it into 14 different regional languages, mostly along the coastal regions, before finally transmitting it to your cell phones.

    Moreover, even if one misses the message, he/she will get a recorded phone message.

    “Our messaging centre identifies a local telecom tower and then sends the message,” said R Amar Singh, Geneva Technologies.

    Apart from natural disasters, the system can be used to alert people even in the case of terrorist strikes like the Mumbai blasts, and officials claim that it won’t be affected by any network congestion.

    Messages to get priority

    “The message sent from the company will get priority and all other messages will be stopped,” said Renu Bapana, Scientist, Technology Development Board[..]