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Code and Response

Creating and deploying open source technologies to tackle some of the world's biggest challenges

Moments after the Project Owl team left the stage having won the Call for Code Global Prize in October 2018, CEO Bryan Knouse said his hope was the victory would help the team build more effectively and faster. He said the plan was to “continue to push this solution out to the people who need it most.”

Months later, the team is living up to its promise – and the solution is many critical steps closer to helping in the next major disaster.

Project Owl, which also gained open source support through the Linux Foundation and the opportunity to pitch potential investors as part of the prize, is a software/hardware solution aimed at keeping first responders connected to victims after a natural disaster. The IoT hardware solution, called ducks, creates a mesh network when deployed.

Once the network is up, anyone can log on to the OWL emergency network and connect to the software solution, which asks a series of questions to potential victims about their whereabouts and needs in a disaster. On the other end of the software, first responders would be able to assess needs and address them accordingly.

Most recently, the team has been heads down focused on moving the solution into the testing and implementation phase with the support of IBM’s new Code and Response initiative.

“We have a lot of different questions and criteria we want to answer: What is the range on the DuckLink wireless radio? What’s the efficacy of the network and people connecting to it once it is deployed?” Knouse said. “My hope is that we … are able to set up these networks quickly and at low cost, and they work. That would be a game changer for disaster response.”

Armed with a budding open source community and five all-stars from the IBM Corporate Services Corps, Knouse and the team, including COO Nick Feuer, CTO Magus Pereira, chief software architect Charlie Evans and chief data scientist Taraqur Rahman ran their largest field test to date this month in Puerto Rico. They also began collaborating with Call for Code Puerto Rico Hackathon winner Pedro Cruz, creator of DroneAid, using his drone-based techology as an aerial scout for their network.

“I feel like this is now becoming real,” Cruz said. “It’s not just a hackathon project. It’s not a side project. It’s becoming a company, a real product.”

Knouse, a regular participant at hackathons of every shape and size, said that Call for Code is unparalleled as a coding competition. The team members have been inspired by the opportunity to apply their varied skills as developers to a worthy cause.

“For my entire life, I’ve wanted to help people somehow and this is a way for me to get to do that,” Evans said. “It’s really cool to be a part of a project that can really make a difference in the world, even at the smallest level – in a neighborhood all the way up to global – there’s a huge impact that can be had here.”

Think you have what it takes to be the next Project Owl? Join the 2019 Call for Code Global Challenge and get started building your solution to address natural disaster preparedness, response and recovery. This year’s competition opens March 25 and runs through July 29.

Stay tuned for more details from Project Owl’s field test as well as updates additional team milestones.