Voice for alerting and response

Posted on August 9, 2011  /  0 Comments

Why voice for Sarvodaya’s emergency communication?

The experience from the 2011 Foods in Batticaloa and Ampara districts was that Sarvodaya was able to secure aid from various sources by providing the actual ground situation through their web portal. It had images and information of rescue operations, victims, camps, and the devastation. The images and stories came from Sarvodaya head office staff who were deployed to the area. They used cameras, phones, and the internet to relay the ground situation to the Hazard Information Hub (HIH).

The Sarvodaya Community Disaster Management Center, situated in Moratuwa, runs the HIH. The staff at the HIH were important in gathering and analyzing the situational reports during the 2011 eastern province floods. The field reports came through phone calls and faxes. They were ad-hoc report without any structure or standard. The HIH would then organize national level relief and supplied them to the victims. These challenges and the need for a system to collect and disseminate situational information was presented by Mr. Manoj Silva (HIH Manager) – VIEW SLIDES

These findings are from the recently concluded workshop in relation to the action research: studying the feasibility of Freedom Fone as tool for voice based emergency data exchange (FF4EDXL). The participants were provincial, district, division coordinators as well as selected Sarvodaya department heads. The objective was to understand the Sarvodaya alerting and situational reporting information needs.


The study

Two of the Emergency Data Exchange Language (EDXL) alerting and situational reporting content standards are the Common Alerting Protocol (EDXL-CAP) and Situational Reporting (EDXL-SITREP), respectively. They are developed for systems to interchange information. We are studying the design requirements for Freedom Fone and Sahana to exchange EDXL-CAP and EDXL-SITREP messages between them. Freedom Fone is a voice based system and Sahana is an Internet based system that manages categorical disaster related information. A CAP message generated through Sahana Alerting Broker would be converted to an audio file that can then be accessed by Sarvodaya emergency response teams over a phone call. These teams can send field observations to the HIH through a voice call. Those calls would be stored as an audio file in Freedom Fone. Using a speech to text transformation we would need to generate an XML file that Sahana can read. The research will study the design requirements for enabling a voice based alerting and situational reporting integrated system.

A couple of challenges

We need Tamil and Sinhala text-to-speech and the inverse, speech-to-text software engines. These would transform the audio and text content to be shared between Sahana and Freedom Fone. The University of Colombo School of Computing Language Technology Research Lab has developed some of the necessary components. Google translate is another tool that we can possibly adopt.

Freedom Fone is essentially a software interface that communicates with Freeswitch for sending and receiving voice and text over the networks through a 2N Officeroute GSM modem. The flexibility that Freedom Fone offers for setting up voice menus and questionnaires are inadequate for emergency communications and would need improvements. Freeswitch is capable of handling the emergency communication requirements but Freedom Fone will need to be enhanced to provide that functionality for the implementers.

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