Battling Cholera with NFC RFID-Tracked Drinking Water in Haiti

Posted on April 1, 2011 @ 03:56 pm

Deep Springs International (DSI), a non-profit organization based in Pennsylvania, USA, and Nokia Research Center (NRC), Palo Alto, CA, are teaming up to ensure the supply of clean drinking water in Haiti with NFC technology.

Water treatment kits are being provided to track chlorine levels in household drinking water using NFC-enabled cell phones. NRC provided the health workers with approximately 50 Nokia 6212 NFC-enabled phones while UPM RFID supplied UPM BullsEye NFC tags with NXP Mifare Ultralight chip.

Joseph “Jofish” Kaye, senior research scientist, NRC, initiated the project together with David Holstius, a student and Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Berkeley's School of Public Health, who developed the software application for mobile phones.

Families in the most rural areas in Haiti will have one water treatment kit consisting of a five-gallon (19 litre) plastic bucket with a lid and spigot. The RFID tags are attached to buckets for storing the treated drinking water and delivered to families together with a chlorine solution and written instructions for using the kit. When DSI’s water technicians visit their homes, they check whether they are using the kits properly and provide additional chlorine solutions. The technicians will read the tags using NFC cell phones loaded with software guiding them to ask relevant questions about the water being tested.

According to DSI, using this chlorine-based water treatment system, known as Gadyen Dlo – Haitian Creole for “water guardian” – has reduced the incidence of diarrhea among users by about 50 percent. However, if the aid workers don’t visit the households regularly, the locals easily revert to drinking unclean water, which promotes the spread of cholera and other diarrhea infections.

The organization is currently reaching 35,000 families throughout Haiti and aims to reach even more by directing its resources more efficiently.

“After a catastrophe, it’s critical to get quickly organized while saving time and resources to protect citizens’ health. NFC technology is a fast and cost-effective way of shoring up or totally taking over maintenance functions in post-catastrophe environments left with a fragile or non-existent infrastructure. From the system point of view, it doesn't need significant investment or overly complicated processes. Simple control, track and trace functionalities can be created rather easily between an NFC phone and RFID tag, sometimes even without network support,” said Mikko Nikkanen, business development director, UPM RFID.


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