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BW Businessworld

Future Gazing: Earthquake 2025

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 In 2005 if anybody told me I would have a phone smarter than the laptop I would think the person is a good case for a sci-fi writer. Yet what I couldn't even fantasise is a fact today right in my hands. In an interview I had with  Andy Robbins, co-founder Android Inc, in 2008, he did mention a “growing” market for the OS he had created. But a smartphone so affordable, and technology benefits dripping down the man on the street  within the next seven years, even in the third world countries, would have been beyond his fantasy.
In this time of gloom, let me play this role of a crazy sci-fi writer and escape into a reality of what may seem impossible right now. Yet just what may happen in times to come. New technology that can make a difference.
Earthquake 2025
In 2025 would humans be doing the same thing tackling earthquakes or is there any hope technology could tackle natural disasters any differently?  Can apps of the future empower citizens? Can I have a nice melodious alarm an hour prior to the earthquake to evacuate the building or if the intensity is too high maybe a month's notice to shift from my building? Or maybe I simply wear my earthquake resistant suit?  Can I go to Levis shop and purchase my anti-collision disaster proof wear?
Looking at technologies that spell hope in the face of natural disasters  in years to come.
Human Microchip Implants - RFID Chips
Human microchip is an identifying integrated circuit device or RFID transponder encased in silicate glass and implanted in the body of a human being.  Now just imagine a subdermal RFID implant  containing a unique ID number that can be linked to information contained in an external database, such as the Municipal database or the city database, with information such as personal identification, medical condition and contact information. Combine this with GPS and someday it could be possible for anyone with the implant to be physically located by latitude, longitude, altitude, speed, and direction of movement. 
If widely deployed at some future point, implantable GPS devices could conceivably allow authorities to locate missing people. Incase of a natural disaster like Kedarnath, it would be make it so simple to not just geographically trace people but also know  their heart beat, medical condition besides pinpoint their location.
Amal Graafstra, author of the book "RFID Toys," asked doctors to place implants in his hands. A cosmetic surgeon used a scalpel to place a microchip in his left hand, and his family doctor injected a chip into his right hand using a veterinary Avid injector kit. Graafstra uses the implants to open his home and car doors and to log on to his computer
Interestingly, Hitler was the second biggest customer for IBM. He used technology to manage “stock” Jews. Technology is neutral and maybe in coming years it would not just be technologically but also financially feasible to manage stock of citizens. Maybe an Aadhar card would be a tale of the good old days we could tell our children.
Earthquake Resistant Wear
The cotton shirts and denim jeans we wear, replace these with synthetic fibres like Du Pont's Kevlar 49, which is  eight times stronger than steel and light as plastic fibre, it's powerful enough to stop bullets and knives. 
Combine this with MAG (maximum absorption garments) it acts like a diaper for astronauts for days. Add to this layers of Liquid cooling and Ventilation Garment, a set of Nylon tricot and spandex which helps eliminate excessive body heat and maintain optimum body temperature also slowing down metabolism for maximum survival. To add to this an impact resistant polycarbonate helmet, similar to the ones used by astronauts, which can not just withstand concrete impact of falling concrete and boulders but also enable view and aiding oxygen supply.
Now imagine five minutes before the earthquake all this is required is to slip in this suit as soon as the alarm rings. Your life is completely safe after that in this capsule suit. No concrete can impact you now. Even if you fall in the rubble, you have enough oxygen for the next few days to survive and your body temperature is maintained thanks to the synthetic fibre in the garment. The microchip planted in you sends information to the central server about your heartbeat and GPS positioning in the chip your location. 
Interestingly companies like Nike are already using synthetic materials like Kevlar in their products. For instance Nike Basketball’s Elite Series 2.0 is using  Kevlar Aramid, an advanced material typically used in body armor, giving protective fit with its incredible high tensile strength-to-weight ratio. Carbon fiber offers lightweight resilient strength, while articulated foam provides impact protection and a comfortable fit.
A popular magazine had recently termed wearable technology as the next big thing on par with the invention of the telephone, electricity and word wide web.  Rightly so, simply wear it and you are set to go. The biggest problem with wearables is the battery. According to Ambiq Micro “It’s no secret that batteries are the main constraint in wearable technology today, causing bulky form factors and reducing operational time between battery recharges to days, if not hours.”
Now imagine if the battery of the wearable could be powered by the human pulse or the body heat.  In 2010  scientists Anantha Chandrakasan, director of MIT’s Microsystems Technology Laboratories, and his colleague Yogesh Ramadass created extremely efficient circuitry in an EKG sensor with a built-in processor and wireless radio.
According to an article in Forbes, a  resting male can put out between 100 and 120 watts of energy, in theory enough to power many of the electronics you use, such as your Nintendo Wii (14 watts), your cellphone (about 1 watt) and your laptop (45 watts). Eighty percent of body power is given off as excess heat. But only in sci-fi fantasies such as the Matrix film series do you see complete capture of this reliable power source.
In 2006 Vladimir Leonov and Ruud J.M. Vullers from Belgium built a working prototype of a blood oxygen sensor, or pulse oxymeter, powered with body heat.
With every passing year if not months wearables are getting cheaper and affordable. Imagine a wearable powered by your body heat doing exactly the same thing as the RFID microchip implant. In other words your heart rate, your location, your body temperature all sent to the central server.  Incase of a natural disaster it is a  breeze for the relief team to find you.
Predicting Earthquakes
Just as C++ would be someone in 1800’s, predicting earthquakes is an “immature” science as Wikipedia puts it. It has not yet lead to a successful prediction of an earthquake from first physical principles. Therefore, some research focuses on empirical analysis, either identifying distinctive precursors to earthquakes, or identifying some kind of geophysical trend or pattern in seismicity that might precede a large earthquake.
Whether it’s change in animal behavior, it has been suggested they are responding to the P-wave, or simply Radon emissions, or change in electromagnetic variations, there isn’t truly a fool proof method as of now.
Take for instance the earthquake in Abruzzo, in Italy 2009.  Giampaolo Giuliani, a laboratory technician at the Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso, as a hobby of experimenting with radon instruments was able  to predict this based on radon emissions.  However his other predictions failed.
There is hope however in projects like those of   NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, new imaging technology. For instance  radiation and other emissions, changes in frequencies, sometimes weeks before the earthquake could lead to successful prediction of earthquakes long before they happen.
According to new technology that can a big difference in years to come in prediction of earthquakes.
Superconducting antennae and solenoid coils, which will be able to measure miniscule electromagnetic radiation field changes, and detect the presence of ELF radiation.
Advanced Radar and Infrared Cameras, which will take a series of images both over a long period of time and over short time frames, and collect data to be processed to recognize signs of impending earthquakes.
Advanced Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR), which, developed by the European Space Agency, provides probable fault movement over a period of years, but if developed, could give predictions over a period of months or even weeks.
Modems and Data Processing Centers, to receive the data collected by the satellites at given intervals, and to analyze the trends recognized in the electromagnetic emissions, radar pictures, infrared readings, and ELF emissions data.
These advanced satellites will utilise the most advanced technology available today and provide an ample amount of data to the scientific community regarding fault line movement and tectonic disruptions, which will provide the key element in a fight against earthquakes and tsunamis 
The Last Word
Alexander the Great, the mightiest man on earth, died of Malaria in 323 BC.  Malarone or Doxycycline are tablets anyone can buy at the chemist shop near you that can prevent it.   Imagine how alien a concept it may have sounded to Alexander that you swallow a tablet and don’t die. I bet his cronies may have even put you in a mental asylum for such absurd imagination. Fantasies become facts when it is man’s will to do so. 
 In 2025 the priest will still say “Son it was God’s will” but maybe for a different disaster. Maybe it was man’s will humans won’t die from earthquakes just as it was some man’s will that no more would people die of something as simple as cholera or malaria or….... 
The author, Puneet Mehrotra, is a columnist on business and technology. [email protected]