Pinoys tap NASA data to create apps with public safety in mind


Posted at Nov 01 2018 12:38 AM

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MANILA—Two tech teams will be representing the country in next year's NASA Space Apps Global Challenge. One of the winning teams counts an ABS-CBN copywriter among its members. 

The US space agency's annual coding and app development competition aims to get teams from all over the world to to use NASA's open data to create open-source solutions that address key challenges in earth science and space exploration.

Team Space Force emerged as one of the winners of the Philippine leg of the contest, held in October at De la Salle University. Space Force developed an app that lets users communicate using their phones even when cellular service is down. 

Meant to be used during calamities and other emergencies, the Vita app employs mesh network technology that lets phones connect and send messages using each other's WiFi signal. By using GPS, Vita also pinpoints people nearby who have the app installed. 

"So even when telcos are down, you can still be able to communicate with people who are near you," said Gino Araullo, of Team Space Force in an interview with ANC's "Future Perfect."

Vita also uses data from NASA to identify disaster-prone areas where the app can be deployed. 

Team Inon, meanwhile, developed an app that lets local officials send weather advisories to fishermen using text messaging. 

Dubbed as IsdApp, the program uses data from NASA such as cloud cover, atmospheric pressure, water temperature and emergency alerts to allow efficient and safe trips for fishermen. 

Revbrain Martin, a copywriter at ABS-CBN, said Isdapp translates NASA data into messages that are more easily understood by common fisherfolk. Local officials who use Isdapp will be able to send these messages through SMS to fishermen. 

"Isdapp is near our hearts because I'm from Obanado and my other partner is from Malabon, so fishing is part of the community that we live in," said Martin. 

The NASA contest is open to everybody, including teams who are not formally trained in programming and development.