How Technology Could Have Assisted In Rescuing The Thai Soccer Team

How Technology Could Have Assisted In Rescuing The Thai Soccer Team

Earlier this month, tragedy was narrowly avoided when a team of international divers rescued 12 Thai soccer players and their coach from a cave that they were trapped in when an unexpected flood billowed through the caves walls.  The boys and their coach were stuck in this cave, narrowly avoiding death, for more than two weeks!  Fortunately, this situation came to a close without them being harmed.  However, the next time that something like this happens, the outcome may not be as favorable.  So, how can we expedite the rescue process rather than leaving things up to chance?  In a scenario like this one, time is of the essence.  Two weeks is a long period of time to be stranded in a cave, especially when you consider the fact that as more time elapses, the likelihood of a successful rescue decreases as the mental and physical health status of those stranded could change in the blink of an eye.  For example, what if the flood pinned them into an even smaller area causing them to drown?  What if they ran out of oxygen, food, or water?  What if they lost hope after two agonizing weeks in a cold, dark cave?  Though bleak, these are all realistic factors that must be weighed and answered to successfully plan and execute a rescue mission.

The question that we want to answer here at Simtelligent is: how can the rescue process be improved so that it takes only a fraction of the time to get people to safety?  We put our heads together to determine which applications of modern technology would be the most beneficial to the rescue process.  We discussed a few different technologies that could assist with expediting the process.  Imagine what quickly notifying mobile carriers that a person is missing, coming to the rescue with a 3-D map of the terrain, and having excellent communication throughout the mission could do for the rescue.

A rescue cannot happen if the emergency response personnel do not know that they are needed.  When going on our fact finding mission, we discovered that the only reason that the soccer team was discovered was because two British divers stumbled across them.  The divers were not properly equipped to rescue 13 people, so instead they notified someone who could.  What if those divers never went into that cave?  The headline would read “Thai Soccer Team and Coach Still Missing.”  So, we asked how can emergency response personnel be notified that a person or group of people have gone missing if nobody reports it?  The solution that we thought of deals with a combination of cell phones, artificial intelligence, and cognitive analytics.  As you may already know, modern mobile devices come equipped with GPS devices for various reasons.  The GPS in your smart phone allows your carrier to see where you are when you are connected to the network.  Now, there may be some privacy concerns with this, which is why there could be an opt out option when you sign your contract with your provider.  Assuming that at least one of the 13 victims had a cell phone on them, when the team entered the cave their GPS signal was no longer able to transmit.  It is widely known that in areas where there is no cell phone reception that the GPS signal will not be able to transmit.  It is also widely known that it is common for people to lose cell phone reception going throughout their daily activities, as there are notorious dead spots in remote areas, caves, behind airports, underground, in elevators, or surrounded by concrete.  However, typically the phone will reconnect to the network immediately after a person leaves a dead zone, and people do not typically spend long periods of time in dead zones.  So, what if an artificial intelligence engine equipped with cognitive analytic capabilities were to keep track of all of the GPS data from cell phones owned by the provider?  There could be some issues with this, as some people may turn their mobile devices off, which could prevent the signal from transmitting.  However, the mobile provider’s AI engine would be able to see where the signal dropped.  If someone’s signal dropped off in the middle of a residential neighborhood or a busy city, it is highly unlikely that they have gone missing and much more likely that they have entered a dead zone.  However, if that signal disappears when that person is spending time in a remote area, it could be a red flag.  More so, imagine if the AI engines from all of the mobile providers were linked together.  The data from one carrier would suggest that only three individuals are missing, while the data from another could say four are missing, and yet another one could claim six are missing.  Once the AI engine pieces the data together, through the application of cognitive analytics, it can realize that 13 signals near a cave all disappeared simultaneously.  That would be a major red flag, and it could contact emergency response personnel with the relevant information about the last known location of the person(s) in question immediately.  By reducing the amount of time it takes for emergency response personnel to be notified of a person missing, the amount of time it takes to find them can be significantly reduced, leading to a more swift rescue.

A 3-D mapping device would have a profound impact on the rescue mission.  The rescue team can have a realistic visual of the cave without having to personally see it thanks to this technology.  One way that a 3-D image of the cave can be done is by using a remote controlled drone equipped with state of the art filming and lighting capabilities.  A drone can relay its video feed back in real-time to the rescue base.  This can be very valuable to the rescue team, as the video feed will allow for them to see which parts of the cave are safe or dangerous, where there is or is not water, and most importantly, where within the cave the soccer team is hiding out.  Another way the rescue team could obtain a 3-D image of the cave would be by attaching a camera to a preliminary dive team.  This dive team could do a dive strictly for exploratory purposes.  Once they return to the base, they could break down the film and devise their action plan.  Having a 3-D map of the cave would give the divers a tremendous advantage when they plunge into the water for the rescue.  They would have already planned out the most efficient route to take, avoiding the risky factors identified from the 3-D image, and ultimately, reducing the amount of time it takes to make the daring rescue.

The last facet of the rescue that technology could improve is communication.  It took three separate trips to rescue all 13 people, with each trip taking approximately eight hours to complete.  While the divers were making their treks, the other members of the rescue team at the base had no clue what was going on as they were unable to communicate with one another.  So, we asked how can we use technology to strengthen communication throughout the cave?  Obviously, cell phones have no reception in this scenario.  However, there is technology that is already commonly used by many cell phones that can be used here in conjunction with two-way wireless radios.  Repeaters are devices composed of a receiver, transmitter, antenna, feed line, and controller.  Repeaters are able to receive signals and transmit them to other antennas.  An ultra high frequency repeater would be ideal in this situation, as it is already used in reinforced concrete structures and emergency services, meaning the signal should be able to repeat through the cave and that the rescue team should already be familiar with it.  Therefore, if the team properly places repeaters near the inside of the cave, they should work sufficiently, allowing the team to communicate using two-way radios throughout the cave.  This could be useful as it would allow for real-time updates to the rescue base, ensuring that the operation goes smoothly.

Technology is going to continue to become more intertwined with our modern world, environments, and experiences.  In a scenario like this one, it is something that can not only make a process more efficient, but can also be used to save lives.  Can you think of any other applications of modern technology that would have resulted in the safe return of the boys to their homes in a time period shorter than two weeks?  Share your ideas with us below!


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Post by Paul Beninca

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