911 for the Bottom Billion BEACON is an SMS-based emergency medical dispatching software created by Trek Medics International, and designed specifically for communities where consistent ambulance response is not available. By relaying SMS from the scene of an emergency to trained responders throughout the community, the software enables the nearest available emergency care providers to quickly locate, treat, and transport trauma victims to local hospitals anywhere there's a phone signal.

The objective of our programs is to improve response times by emergency medical responders such that:

  • 90% of persons contacting Beacon in urban areas will access emergency care and transport within 10mins
  • 90% of persons contacting Beacon in rural areas will access emergency care and transport within 30mins

A Need For Urgent Innovation There are approximately 4.5 billion mobile phone subscribers on the globe, yet nearly 80% of them have no reliable way to call for help in the event of an emergency using a simple number like 9-1-1. However, as the World Bank wrote, “Nowhere is the demand for efficient communication and rapid transportation more critical than in emergency medical care.”

This is particularly true in rural areas of low- and middle-income countries where conventional centralized emergency dispatching systems are not readily available. When such systems do exist, they are often limited in their coverage and almost invariably suffer from fragmented communications, leading to uncoordinated medical response systems with very long response times. As a result, rural communities often rely on informal response systems in the event of an emergency - like a car wreck or a complicated childbirth - forcing bystanders to initiate an impromptu telephone chain in hopes of finding emergency medical care and transportation. Such ad hoc systems are prone to delays and inefficiencies which prevent timely prehospital care from being equitably accessible, and result in soaring rates of premature death and permanent disability. Our Beacon dispatching system has been created to solve this problem, and can do so anywhere a mobile phone signal exists.

How It Works

  1. Emergency Event – Someone falls from a moving vehicle and is lying in the street
  2. Alert & Notification – A witness calls the dispatcher, or sends an SMS to a Beacon server
  3. Response – The dispatcher/server relays the SMS to the nearest trained responders
  4. On-Scene Care – Trained responders locate the patient(s) to provide triage and basic medical care
  5. Transport – Responders provide safe transport to hospitals and send advanced notification to receiving facilities
  6. Definitive Care – Patients are transferred to definitive medical care

OpenXC Platform Beacon was developed using a lowest common denominator-approach so that it would rely on the most accessible technologies and resources - in this case, text messages. For vehicles that are equipped with the OpenXC Platform, Beacon could turn a dashboard monitor into a mobile data terminal with computer-aided dispatch to receive alerts, provide enhanced mapping functions and track first responders involvement. We created Beacon to replicate an ambulance's mobile data terminal on a feature phone; the OpenXC Platform could be used to re-create the ambulance's mobile data terminal as a low-cost alternative in any vehicle equipped with OpenXC.

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