I bet that when you think of Brazil, the first thing that comes to mind is sandy beaches and sunshine. That is true, but the country has also been suffering with frequent catastrophes such as the recent floods in the Amazon region and the brutal drought in the Northeast - so the government is turning to advanced technology to improve the prediction of such disasters.
An agreement was signed at the end of last week between the Science, Technology and Innovation ministry, the National Center for Alerting and Monitoring of Natural Disaters (Cemaden) and Brazil's largest telco Vivo, where information on incidents collected by rain gauges will be sent through 3G/GPRS networks to a machine-to-machine (M2M) platform which will monitor and analyze data on rain precipitation.
Some 1,500 rain gauges will be installed in federal government sites and mobile phone towers in risk areas determined by Cemaden in 19 out of 27 Brazilian states. With the new system, which will be focused on detection of potential floods, inundations, mudslides and droughts, information on potential hazards will get to the monitoring facility faster - and response times in the event of an emergency should be reduced.
Cemaden was set up by the Science, Technology and Innovation ministry in 2011, in response to the frequent natural disasters that have occurred in Brazil over the last few years. Its key area of focus is to strike as many partnerships as possible with the private sector, so that the capacity of disaster monitoring can be improved and cities can be better prepared to deal with these events.
The deadly floods seen in large urban centers and extreme droughts of late are just some examples of an obvious shift in climatic patterns in Brazil. It also means that the lack of effective alert and prevention mechanisms is something that cannot be taken lightly.
Sure, solving the problem would require longer-term actions such as better urban planning, as well as the creation of a culture of readiness and fast response both within the government and society, as seen in countries such as the US and Australia. But as news of thousands of lives lost in natural disasters continue to hit the headlines in Brazil, additional investment and resources are needed right now - and technology has a crucial role to play in facing these difficulties.
Because if things continue as they are at present, we might as well get Phil to help us predict the weather.