I’m Okay

Globally, about 160 million people every year are impacted by natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, landslides, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, heatwaves, and droughts (World Health Organisation). These disasters have an immediate impact on human lives and their physical, biological and social environments.

In these challenging times, people in affected areas have several needs including clean food and water, reliable shelter and, in the immediate aftermath, survivors need to know the people that they love are okay. Strong emotions and fear of having lost a family member are natural during these times. Usually, means of communication are restricted due to the devastation of physical infrastructures leaving survivors without power, and phone network.

From this arose a design challenge – How could we learn from the way nature spread/communicate signals rapidly under adversity in order to quickly help people to confirm their loved ones’ safety?

The solution was a lightweight, wearable device for people in natural disaster-prone areas that would help in reunification and rescue efforts. The device is provided by the government and is intended to be worn all the time. It features a peer-to-peer communication system to pass along a simple message: I’m okay. It’s the first step towards reducing emotional stress and preventing chaos until the common communication technologies are back in operation.

The mechanism is inspired by mentors in nature including ants (which create channels of communication in a decentralised way), bees (non-contact based mass communication), dogs (unconventional wayfinding via scent), malaria & mosquitos (spreading information passively for greater reach).