EghtesadOnline: In the wake of natural disasters that battered Iran over the past few months, the Iranian Red Crescent Society and the Information and Communications Technology Ministry have joined forces to set up mechanisms that can make rescue missions more effective.
Based on an agreement, 430 rescue centers in Iran are to be linked through a locally developed network dubbed “Neuronta”, which has been developed by Zharf Negar, a subsidiary of the state-owned Telecommunications Company of Iran, ICT Ministry’s website reported.
Devastating floods hit several Iranian provinces in March and April, claiming dozens of lives. Earlier in 2017, Kermanshah Province was ravaged by an earthquake, Financial Tribune reported.
Pointing to the catastrophes, ICT Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi said, “We have learned from our failings during these calamities and our collaboration with the Red Crescent Society is aimed at addressing our shortcomings.”
Emphasizing the pivotal role of stable communications during calamities, he added that Neuronta will enable rescuers to stay connected throughout their missions, regardless of conditions.
Communications through the network are secured by end-to-end encryption. The encryption algorithms have not been audited by independent entities, therefore, their effectiveness cannot be confirmed.
Million Dollar Project
TCI’s Sales Director Ali Sobhani said 1.34 trillion rials ($10 million) have been invested in the development of Neuronta.
As per an earlier agreement, 400 locations introduced by IRCS were connected to the network by TCI.
Costs of the earlier project, which is still underway, have amounted to 172 billion rials ($1.3 million), he added.
In addition to assisting rescue missions, a stable communication network is a pillar of modern banking as well. Therefore, services offered by Zharf Negar through its 1,600 communication centers are used by almost all major Iranian banks, including Bank Melli Iran, Bank Saderat, Bank Mellat, Ayandeh Bank, Bank Keshavarzi and Sarmayeh Bank.
IRCS Chief Ali Asghar Peyvandi said, “Considering the Iranian Red Crescent’s 2 million volunteers and 60,000 members and staff, coordinating rescue operations is a demanding task that requires stable communications.”
According to Peyvandi, connecting IRCS to Neuronta is a significant step in the right direction.
In addition to strengthening the Red Crescent Society’s communication backbone, efforts have been on track for developing a smart alarm and SOS system.
The ICT minister said, “An effective smart warning system can significantly curb the human cost of natural disasters and help save people’s lives.”
According to Jahromi, after the country suffered an extensive deluge, the Iranian National Disaster Management Organization sent over 60 million notices through a smart warning system.
A smart SOS system has been introduced through which people can receive the latest reports on natural disasters and send financial aid to affected people by dialing *112# on their mobile phones.
Through the system, people can also send rescue signals. After receiving such signals, mobile operators can spot the user and in coordination with the Red Crescent Society, dispatch rescue teams to the location.
Mobile operators and mobile virtual network operators have backed the project. An MVNO is a wireless communications services provider that does not own the mobile network infrastructure over which it provides services to customers but, in fact, pays a fee to network operators.
Jahromi elaborated on the ministry’s other disaster management projects and said, “Iran Space Research Center, in collaboration with the Red Crescent Society, is working on projects to enhance the deployment of communication balloons during natural calamities.”
The use of emergency communication balloons is commonplace in the world. In October 2018, Google brought emergency connectivity to Puerto Rico through its Internet-by-balloon project after the Irma and Maria hurricanes flattened vast areas and left more than 90% of the island without cellphone coverage.
Three national rescue exercises are to be held jointly by the ICT Ministry and Iranian Red Crescent Society before the current Iranian year ends in March 2020.