Auto Disaster State Reporter

A device that provides visual updates about disaster situation .

December 7th, 2015

November 2015 has shown the tremendous amount of rainfall in Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, India.

This was followed by a disastrous flood which, by some, has been compared to the Tsunami from 2004. In this state of emergency where more than 280 people have been reported dead, two things that struck me the most were the following:

  • The Indian national media failed miserably at covering the turn of events for a very long time.
  • The only source of news was Twitter.
  • The clippings below will show you that while some things are being reported, there is still no way of finding out the conditions of various internal parts of the city.


    The idea for building a solution for filling this information void came in when a fellow open source hacker pitched the idea of building a mesh network at Random Hacks of Kindness' Hackathon on the 5th December.

    A visual recording device(camera) could be connected to the mesh network, a picture containing the information about water levels in a place and GPS location could be sent over the network to a central server.

    This however would not really help and it will also have infrastructure requirement of creating an additional server and image database. My hack here was to bring in power of Twitter and tweet the images directly with above information.

    A tweet could look something like this:

    The tweet text provided could also be modified according to the requirement. It becomes a very important piece of information which could give live updates about the state of rescue efforts, water condition and improvements in the situation . This could then be used by citizens and other stakeholders who are on the ground to prioritize visits in various areas.

    A device like this could actually be used to collect information in any part of the world under any conditions and this is what makes it the most useful.


    The prototype for the hack requires the following material:

    1. Raspberry Pi - A pi zero / Intel Edison would be ideal
    2. Pi Camera
    3. Wifi/Internet Dongle
    4. Power Bank
    5. Waterproof enclosure

    My enclosure and circuit looked something like this:

    IMG_20151207_203913 IMG_20151207_204015

    A small orifice on the box helps to place the camera.

    The circuit has been tested. It works, the feed for twitter works too.

    I have made the code open on Github, it can be checked out here .

    Issues and pending things

    The prototype works, but still there is a long way to go. Without it being implemented, there will be no impact of this project

    I need your help to spread the word across. If you know of someone in Chennai who owns a Pi or any other embedded device, please put me in touch, I can help them set it all up, even if one device goes live, the information gain will be second to none.

    Here are a few more things that need to be worked on:

    1. Power consumption - I have written the code to send out data every 6 hours, but need to be more creative here.
    2. Enclosure - I used the enclosure that came in from ABC (this seems to be too much info though), better design is required for the circuit for sure
    3. Code - I know for a fact that the code can be made better, many more additions can be made, please feel free to add them
    4. Network of Pis need to be on the ground to really see the change. Let's build it together!
    5. I know there are a lot of loose ends here, please ask questions and rip me apart if you have to, but let's really put it where it is needed the most right now, Chennai!

    PS: I volunteer with RHOK Bangalore, this project was built during this time, I would love for you to support our projects. We work on open source projects. We connect NGOs, programmers, hardware people(like me!) and more, to each other to build sustainable solutions for communities. If you would like to be part of our next event or just get in touch, please drop me an email or reach out @rishigb and @rhok_bang :)

    PPS: This blog is rather badly written, so apologies for that, I will buff it once the project goes beyond a prototype.