Vodafone Romania and Salvamont (Mountain Rescuers Association) strengthen their technological partnership and launch two digital solutions that, together with the power and the reliability of the recently rebranded Vodafone GigaNetwork, help to significantly reduce the time needed to search for victims and save more lives. When the path goes unseen, the mountain rescuers rely on Vodafone GigaNetwork 5G and GigaNetwork FIBER.
The first solution is developed for the first time by Vodafone Romania’s technology team and provides mobile signal coverage in hard-to-reach mountain areas surrounded by rocky walls that block the propagation of mobile signal generated by the current terrestrial telecommunication towers. The solution consists of a ground-based equipment installed on a mean of transportation specific to these areas that connects via satellite to the centre of the Vodafone network and a radio equipment fitted on a professional drone that is raised in the air above the search areas. The radio equipment installed on the drone generates mobile signal (voice and data), including 5G, within a radius of up to 10km. The mobile phone of the searched person automatically connects to the Vodafone network, so that the victim can contact the unique 112 emergency service, regardless of the operator whose services he or she uses. Moreover, if the victim uses the Salvamont-Vodafone app and has activated its location function via mobile data before starting the route, the mountain rescue team will be able to track his or her route on the mountain and locate the missing person faster.
The second solution uses photogrammetry and Artificial Intelligence to capture and analyse geolocated images, collected for automatic detection of missing victims. Capturing high-resolution images in the search area is done by a second professional drone, equipped with the necessary technology for photogrammetry and thermal imaging. Thus, in just 30 minutes, the drone can travel for up to 5 linear km and can cover an area of 24 hectares, taking between 130 and 300 images, depending on the flight parameters and the resolution of the camera. After download, the photos are sent to be processed, through the dedicated network generated for the rescue mission, to the Salvamont-Vodafone National Data Analysis Centre. In the centre connected to GigaNetwork FIBER, the data is analysed and processed in a few minutes (approx. 100 photos in 2 minutes) by the artificial intelligence automatic detection program SARUAV. The system identifies a series of clues such as a person’s figure or coat, and the command centre team sends the exact coordinates where they were spotted to the mountain rescuers. For more information about how these two solutions work, but also about how a mountain rescue action is carried out, watch this documentary.
“The project we launched today demonstrates once again that technology and the human spirit brought together can have a huge impact. When it comes to saving lives, technology can be the decisive factor in interventions where search time can be crucial. By supporting Salvamont with these two digital solutions, one of them being developed in-house, from scratch, by the Vodafone technology team, we strengthen the role of technological partner that we took on and reconfirm the reliability of our GigaNetwork FIBER and GigaNetwork 5G the Salvamont command centres rely on. The fact that mountain rescuers rely on our networks each moment in their missions when they often endanger their own lives to save other lives, for us, is the most important recognition for our networks reliability and performance”, said Cătălin Buliga, Chief Network Officer Vodafone Romania and Head of Networks Development for Europe Cluster Markets.
10 times higher search capacity
“Each year, the number of rescue missions increases by 30-40%. Only last year, we had over 7,000 missions and more than 8,500 rescued people. In such interventions, time is the most important element. We have well-trained human resource, but there are situations when more is needed. Using the solutions launched today and having a command centre equipped with state-of-the-art technology which is connected to Vodafone’s fibre optic network, we practically increase the search capacity by almost 10 times, which means more lives saved, but also an intervention time, risks and effort considerably reduced for mountain rescuers. We rely on Vodafone’s network on this project and its expertise as a technological partner, as well as on Gorj County Council”, added Prof. Sabin Cornoiu, President of the National Association of Mountain Rescuers in Romania.
From Supernet to GigaNetwork
“We have chosen this moment to announce the transition from Supernet to Vodafone GigaNetwork, which comes naturally with our evolution to a technology company, the new role as a convergent player on the market and following continuous investment in our network. The consolidation and expansion of our partnership with Salvamont confirms our network reliability on which the mountain rescuers rely at key moments in their operations. If Salvamont counts on the reliability of our networks to save lives, we can all count on Vodafone’s mobile and fixed networks. Moreover, the rebranding comes at a moment of double recognition of our networks by German auditor umlaut – ”Best in Test” mobile network and ”best experience of using the fixed internet”, said Nedim Baytorun, Consumer Business Director, Vodafone Romania.
Vodafone GigaNetwork was certified as “Best in test” mobile network in Romania, in March 2022, by the independent German auditor umlaut, with a total score of 922 points, 25 more than the next ranking operator and the highest umlaut score for the past six years. Thus, Vodafone GigaNetwork was ranked as the best mobile data and voice network nationwide, with the highest total score, the highest score for mobile voice services, the highest score for mobile data services, the highest score for urban areas and the highest score for the reliability of mobile networks. Vodafone GigaNetwork FIBER was already certified by the same German auditor in August 2021 for the best experience of using the fixed internet in Romania, being the first such certification conferred by the umlaut auditor to a fixed internet network operator in our country.
Vodafone Romania has supported Salvamont’s rescue missions since 2004. Among the first projects in which it was involved, together with the Vodafone Foundation, were the establishment of the National Dispatch Office and the implementation of the Salvamont app, essential for mountain rescue operations. Currently, the dispatchers receive over 12,000 calls a year, and for over 50% of them rescue team intervention is required. The Salvamont-Vodafone app, available since last year in a new version for both iOS and Android, offers, alongside a complete information and mountain orientation guide, the SOS option, through which users can activate the location service of the phone and the dispatcher can be notified in real time about their coordinates.
Starting 2019, Vodafone has officially become the technological partner of Salvamont, getting involved especially in projects that use digital solutions dedicated to the mountain rescue activity. One of the most recent collaborations was to equip Salvamont with tools for finding people caught in the avalanche. The RECCO system consists of a locating device used by mountain rescuers and reflectors that tourists can carry in their equipment.