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Crisis Response Journal Crisis Response Journal

A 'black box' for monitoring explosions and gunshots

Posted on 14th January 2016 at 07:30am

When bombing campaigns kill humanitarian staff and civilians or damage infrastructure in times of conflict, the circumstances are often disputed. Warring parties may blame each other, and eyewitness accounts invariably contradict each other. The lack of objective evidence can therefore impede investigations and peacekeeping activities. But what if there was a device that recorded forensic evidence of what happened where and when, and who did it?

The MSF hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, which was hit by a US airstrike in October 2015 – when bombs hit civilian or humanitarian facilities, it is often difficult to determine exactly what happened; the e3e monitor is designed to help investigations (Rex)

The e3e monitor is a device that records the sounds of explosions and other noises within a radius of two to three kilometres. This recording can provide evidence of when and where explosions or gunshots occur, and in what sequence they happened.

If multiple devices are present in an area, triangulation could determine from which direction the explosion or gunshot came. 

The e3e monitor would assist peacekeeping bodies to monitor conflicts and cease-fire agreements, and humanitarian organisations could more accurately assess damage, the needs of civilians, and their own security. The information could also be used as evidence for war crimes.

The prototype is only the size of a brick, and is made from readily available components. When sourced at scale, the device should cost less than $50 to produce. The small size, affordable cost, and easy implementation should enable rapid adoption by the humanitarian community.

Prototype of the e3e monitor, developed by a team during last year's hackathon at CERN, as part of the Port Project (CERN)

It was developed as part of The Port project, held at CERN, Switzerland, which aims to combine cretative minds from CERN and non-profit organisations in interdisciplinary teams to work on humanitarian technology-related benefits to society. Last year, six inter-disciplinary teams of around ten members had six weeks of preparation with videoconference meetings and a 60-hour final hackathon to build working prototypes and tangible solutions for real-life humanitarian problems. The topics selected were inspired by people working at the Red Cross, United Nations and other NGOs in and around Geneva.

More details from The Port, CERN and here.

By Megan Mantaro, and Ian Portelli


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