Burning Man Earth Technology Helps Haiti Relief

The Burning Man Earth team has created an iPhone Application to help rescue workers on the ground in Haiti as they help the country recover from the recent devastating earthquake.  Andrew Johnstone of the BME team wrote to Carmen Mauk of Burners Without Borders to tell her about it, as BWB teams are hard at work on the ground in Haiti.

The prospect of their future aspirations for this project depends on resources, volunteers, and money. If you’d like to help with forwarding this technology, email bmanearth (at) burningman (dot) com. Andrew writes:

“Hi Carmen,

Just to let you know that as soon as the Haiti quake hit, our main software developers for Burning Man Earth, Jeff Johnson and Mikel Maron, both got their sleeves rolled up and put together an interactive iPhone app with up-to-the-minute cartography for rescue workers on the ground. I am humbled that they are on our project and honored to call them friends.

Haiti Rescue iPhone App Screen Shot
Haiti Rescue iPhone App Screen Shot

O’Reilly covered it here.  You can also find it by searching for “HaitiGPS” in the iTunes app store.

They got unprecedented cooperation from commercial satellite companies, the military, and Apple, and managed to get this off the ground in only a few days. This app is framed around GIA-GPS and if anything could focus attention that what we are doing for Black Rock City in making “cartography from chaos” having a real world application that will save lives… then this is it.

This [a serious natural disaster] WILL happen again. It may be San Francisco next time. Although we still have much work to do, we are within reach of our goal of the BME project being a fully-developed citywide geo network.

BRC can be seen as a refugee camp for 50,000. It is a unique and perfect test ground for geo data response planning… harsh, off grid, temporary.

Haiti Rescue iPhone App Screen Shot
Haiti Rescue iPhone App Screen Shot

We have ultimate aspirations of a rugged and stand alone container pod of solutions. Deployed into a disaster area, a ring of self-powered antennas maintain a small WIFI cloud of several square miles allowing anyone with a laptop or smartphone to access up to the minute cartography and aerial shots overlayed by GPS-augmented data (making any from far away, a local). For those without access to phones and computers, local “flat pack hexayurt” kiosks provide “playa info” type services for those seeking or leaving information. The container itself provides a home for the base station housing the server and tech crew.

After a disaster, we could be up and running within hours of getting on site and basic instructions for how to find and use the application could be broadcast on the radio, and they are invited to join the geo wiki.

Who/where are you?
Who/what are you trying to find?
What do you need?
What have you to offer?
Rumor free information.

The events of the past week have sharpened my time line. This is needed now, and hesitation may be measured in lives lost.

Thanks for all the work you do,

Andrew Johnstone
Project Lead
Burning Man Earth”

About the author: Will Chase

Will Chase

Will Chase is Burning Man's former Minister of Propaganda, working on global communications strategy. He was the editor-in-chief for the Jackrabbit Speaks newsletter and the Burning Man Journal, and content manager for Burning Man’s web properties. He also oversaw the ePlaya BBS and Burning Man’s social media presence. Will first attended Burning Man in 2001. He volunteered as the Operations Manager for the ARTery (Black Rock City’s art HQ) and was on the Burning Man Art Council from 2003-2008. He was Web Team Project Manager and Webmaster from 2004 until he transitioned to the Communications Department in 2009.

5 Comments on “Burning Man Earth Technology Helps Haiti Relief

  • Vinay Gupta says:

    Hi. Vinay Gupta here, designer of the Hexayurt. Science for Humanity is trying to raise money to do a formal structural analysis of the Hexayurt for use in Haiti. Obviously the winds down there are brutal, even compared to the playa, but by moving up to plywood for the structure, we think there’s a decent shot of making an affordable structure that will actually survive local conditions until people can get permanent housing sorted out.

    You know the URL, come on over and help out if you can, please.

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  • walter anderson says:

    when does it begin

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  • thundt says:

    Good work people. Would love to see it available on the playa. I see (on http://bmanearth.burningman.com/ ) you intend to deploy the iPhone app this year. Currently the on-playa GPS and wifi efforts seem to be totally unrelated projects done by different groups, so how will the phone get updates (e.g., art car locations)?
    Looking forward to a virtual “Barter Bob’s”. :-)

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  • barter says:

    Fantastic job to the team. You are a great help on the people of Haiti. You are a superhero there.

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