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A new way to get news in a crisis

PHUKET: When the quakes hit Phuket on April 11 and 16, one almost immediate effect was a desperate need for information – family and friends phoning each other to check if they were alright, and were not in the tsunami zone, and people trying to get trustworthy information from local websites.

By Alasdair Forbes

Friday 20 April 2012, 12:01PM

The result: the mobile phone system was jammed with calls and inaccessible most of the time. Even SMS messages – including blanket government warnings – were not getting through. Local websites crashed or slowed to a crawl under the weight of traffic.

One new way of getting information out, however, worked excellently in certain parts of Phuket – a system not originally intended for this function.

Local company Bluaje specialises in pushing advertising via Bluetooth to smart phones. Clients, on signing up, get an ad designed for them, and a transmitter box to broadcast the ad by BlueTooth or WiFi to passing smart phones.

The ads are interactive and can even make calls directly to the advertiser. They may also be changed or deleted remotely and instantaneously.

During the crises of April 11 and 16, however, Bluaje also broadcast updates from The Phuket Newsand 89.5FM Phuket Live Radio to anyone walking past any of their clients on Phuket. These updates included the tsunami warning.

“When there is an emergency,” Adam Duggan, Bluaje’s Managing Director explains, “we issue the message ‘Emergency Warning’, and device users can choose to accept this warning or reject it.” Warnings, he adds, are issued only “when there is a quantifiable risk”.

Bluaje clients include shops in Jungceylon and Central Festival and a number of hotels on the island. The network is still growing. The technology was deployed at the Asian Hospitality and Travel Show last year as well as the Pimex boat show this year.

Duggan added, “We have arrangements in place for two units at the Phuket International Airport with final decisions on their implementation being made this month. We will most likely see them active before the end of May.”

The company is also stalking major clients with, potentially, hundreds of outlets around Thailand.

The normal operating range of Bluaje WiFi and Bluetooth is about 200 metres. “We usually connect to 28 Bluetooth devices at a time and 100 or more WiFi devices, which may be just a fraction of a second per device, which is long enough for the interaction.”

Bluaje director Jay Carlile also noted the environmentally-friendly aspect of this form of advertising. “Reuse of promotional materials such as plastics and metals is very energy-inefficient and environmentally damaging.

“Our digital solutions are easy to update, and we simply dispose of old commercials by pressing Delete.”

Some users of smart phones may find it irritating to have advertising pushed onto their phones (though they can opt to reject them), and may turn off the Bluetooth or WiFi.

But when there’s an emergency on, and other avenues for obtaining information are crashing, this may be a way to get reliable information.

For more information visit bluaje.com



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