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Happy Life Cartography

People send pre-formatted positive status messages on a regular basis through any available communication tools. The messages confirm that everything is fine there. If there is an attack, messages are no more received: a system server raises an alarm

Photo of Thierry Dagaeff
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The idea

A number of people in a population send regular pre-formatted status messages through any available communication tools. These messages state that nothing is wrong; they are "Happy Life Signal" (HLS). If the population is under attack, they will just stop sending their status. A receiving centralized system server will detect the massive break, and conclude an attack is on-going. The attackers will lead to the same result if they try to cut the communication system. And they may have a hard time to massively force the population to send HLS during a raid.

The specificity of the system is that no action is required for the alert to take place, and most actions against communication routes will indeed raise an alarm. The system targets sensitive situations, were it can be feared that attacks could occur at some moment. It does not give information on an attack but raises an alarm.

The system may also be used by wealthy countries, so that it may become the basis for a buzz and an entertaining app; this may benefit the needing communities.

Definitions of the terms

The Supported Communication Tools are made of combinations of any available devices, available communication technologies, dedicated client applications, and/or dedicated servers, as described here below.

Any (or as many as possible) available type of devices should be supported: computer, mobile, fixed phone, radio.The devices may be personal devices, community devices (e.g. a village's phone or shop's computer), or devices that have been distributed to the population for this purpose in identified sensitive situations and areas (meaning to an endangered population, having a poor communication system, or an unevenly distributed access to the communication tools).

In correlation with the supported devices, any available type of technology should be supported: internet, mobile, landline, satellite.

The dedicated client applications are deployed on supporting devices, like smartphones or computers. The role of the app is to provide with the pre-formatted status message, an identifier of the user and of the device location. Since the device may be used by several people, the app lets the user enter an identifier; on such login, it sends the positive status message, with its location.

The dedicated servers are made so to correspond to the various device/technology/client applications. In the case of a smartphone for instance, the server is an usual app server. In case of the landline, an automatized call-center may gather the status messages.

The dedicated server applications forward the received status (or a summary thereof) to a centralized system server. This HLS system server is in charge of detecting the situation where it does no more receive a predefined threshold number of regular status for an area. An area may be defined by the system maintenance, in order for instance to reflect the cutting into sensitive regions. Or it can be just an emerging pattern.

The set up

If there are individuals with supported devices, it should be tried by all means to get them involved. They may send HLS on a personal basis, to tell they are OK; or they can act for small communities, like families, small villages, public places.

If not personal, the shared devices can be at specific (but many) places where people inevitably spend some time during a normal day, that is the "happy life places": public places, baths, marketplaces, wells, food stores, offices, etc. As many as possible pre-registeered users can use the device with an identifier.
Instead of trying to send alert messages in case of danger and attacks, people send happy messages. As an incentive, the pre-formatted status messages can be selected among a pre-defined list of options. Pre-formatted messages can also include some degree of happiness, for the people to express for instance that they start feeling endangered. This may be used by the system server to re-enforce an alarm.

This also participates to a "positive point of view on life", by letting people tell they are happy rather than the opposite.

Registering new users must be easy since there is no specific threat in signaling happiness.

How does your idea gather AND verify information? How does your idea keep those who use it safe?

The information is gathered through distributed devices and handled by the dedicated servers and the centralized system server. The information does not need to be verified, because it is "default information"; the alarm cannot be easily tricked.: - Malevolent users can individually stop sending HLS, but hardly the whole community, which is necessary to raise a flag. As a corollary, only mass attacks can be detected. - The same is true if some people forget to update their status, so it is robust. - It should be difficult for the attackers to massively force people to access to the devices, in particular to the shared devices, and enter the client app to send a misleading happy status signal. - If communication lines are cut, the HLS are cut, and the alert is raised. People are safe because they do not have to provide information about issues. They don't have to act against the enemy. They don't have to act at all; actually, they act only when life is fine, i.e. when there is no danger.

How might your idea be designed to scale and spread to help as many people as possible?

This idea only addresses massive threats. But in this case, it is not necessary that each person has access to one device. So it scales by having one device per "small groups" and/or per specific location (the "gathering points"). Moreover, the intelligence is in the receivers. It allows avoiding to rely on a specific technology and on complex devices; the system is based on what is locally available. We can also envisage to gather HLS from remote area having absolutely no Supported Communication Tools based on technology, using other means that will be introduced, hopefully, through this OpenIDEO project. If such non-technological means exist, they can be used to transmit the HLS to some points were other people will be in charge to forward it using more advanced technological means. Eventually, while some organizations may help setting up Supported Communication Tools in areas identified as sensitive, the idea of sending regular happy life signals can be extended to the whole world. That is one force of the system: it is for every human being, it does not necessitate to focus on endangered populations. As a standard smartphone app, it can be used by willing people all around the world to design a kind of daily happiness map, the Happy Life Cartography. As such, it could become a monetizable entertaining app, bringing some funds to the project (for instance, in wealthy countries, a premium version allows users to access the cartography, and people will also pay for it because they know it helps other people around the world).

How might your idea make use of exisiting technology? Has your idea been tried in a different or related context?

The idea may use any available technology. Sending predefined messages is easy with different systems, even if some basic voice recognition may be needed in some cases. Indeed, in the case of landlines, the simple fact that the system was used is sufficient to signal everything is fine. In all cases, the technology exist and similar applications normally (to my knowledge) configured to send alerts are well tested. The idea is just to inverse the logics.

How could you begin prototyping this idea in a simple way to begin testing and refining it? Who would use your idea and/or who is using it now? Is your idea technically easy medium or hard to implement?

I would start with a version of a public app "for wealthy countries". This may allow implementing and tuning the client and servers. It should be also possible to demand to a subset of the app users to participate to tests in order to tune the detection of break events. This also provides data about the ratio of status message per user, i.e. what can be the expected positive user behavior. The benefit of this approach is that it can be tested outside sensitive regions, by any usual ICT development company, not requiring implications of governments, ONG or any humanitarian organization, so not wasting their time and resources in the early conceptualization stage. Maybe some monetization of the app can be envisaged to help support the development. At some point later, a deployment can be tried in a sensitive area. It should be feasible to start testing in an area where one technology (internet or mobile for instance) is well deployed.

How is your idea adapted for conditions in hard-to-access areas, such as lack of internet and mobile access? Can users adopt it without much behavior change?

A weak point of the idea is that people must change their behavior since we need them to regularly signal that everything is fine. In particular sensitive cases, some people could be appointed to help their community to participate. The covered sensitive regions still need some communication facilities. This can be tampered by using other non-technological means to transmit the HLS to some centralized points (but this centralization may help tricking the system).


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