IBM marked Hurricane Preparedness Week to call on the technology community to take action that will help save lives of people in communities that are vulnerable to disasters.

IBM’s 2019 Call for Code Global Challenge, now underway, is a competition that calls on software developers, data scientists and technologists from around the world to build solutions that help communities prepare for, respond to and recover from natural disasters and vie for a $200,000 grand prize.

Last year’s winner featured Project OWL (Organization, Whereabouts and Logistics) a mesh network and incident management system that was inspired by Hurricane Maria.

“We are helping build technology solutions to help save lives ahead of and in the aftermath of disasters,” said Daniel Krook, IBM software engineer developer. “Along with nonprofits, aid agencies, and local governments, IBM is putting open source technologies developed as part of coding challenges such as Call for Code in the communities where they are needed most.”

After winning the prize, the five Project OWL developers — Bryan Knouse, Nick Feuer, Charlie Evans, Magus Pereira and Taraqur Rahman — began field testing its technology in Puerto Rico. The group deployed the network in five regions generating local area networks and began sending messages to the cloud-based incident management system.

For winning, Project OWL was introduced to a venture capital firm and potential investors, open source support from the Linux Foundation and a chance to deploy the Project OWL solution with IBM’s Corporate Service Corps.

The group deployed more than 60 of its “DuckLink” IoT devices over an area of two square miles and collected more than 6,000 data transmissions.

The deployment was an effort aided by IBM, the governor of Puerto Rico, local mayors and other Puerto Rican officials.

As hurricane season gets underway, Project OWL is set to duplicate those efforts in Puerto Rico in other communities that will need technological help. All the while, the 2019 Call for Code seeks more enterprising technologists.

“We are offering technology tools and assorted weather data via APIs to developers to create solutions to help people in communities vulnerable to natural disasters like Project OWL is doing in Puerto Rico and elsewhere,” Krook said.

There is an added emphasis on health-care needs to the 2019 Call for Code contest. Developers are encouraged to create solutions that address the following aspects of health care:

• Food and water safety

• Medical supply distribution

• Tracking and halting disease epidemics

• Access to medical health records

• Mental health

• Serving vulnerable populations

IBM says projects that don’t focus on health care will still be considered but health care is a pressing need in disaster response. IBM is also offering its technical resources to developers and offers resources and information from first responders and local authorities on needs in the wake of specific disasters.