Using migrant data to aid humanitarian efforts

Smart new technology now allows humanitarian teams to accurately assess refugee numbers in real time, meaning support can be sent to the right places when it’s needed most.

Aileen is a clever device that counts signals from any smartphones carried by transient populations, sending that data to NGOs via a clear dashboard, so staff can react to movement and pressure points.

The benefits are crucial in allowing those organisations to understand better when help, such as the distribution of food or additional shelter, is needed most.

Aileen was developed in partnership with data technology specialists Seita B.V. and the International Organization of Migration (IOM) during the 2018 Humanitarian Action Challenge

Please do contact us to see how Aileen can help your organisation.

Use Cases

The three key uses for Aileen in the field are:

  • Understanding migrant numbers – know in real time how many people are in one location, such as a new or existing refugee camp.
  • Resource allocation – see the hours of the day when most people are present, making aid distribution more efficient, helping more of those in need and avoiding waste.
  • Following population movements – using Aileen units in multiple locations can help NGOs understand migrant movements and forecast pinch points ahead where aid will be needed.

How Aileen works

Every WiFi-enabled smartphone broadcasts a unique MAC address while it’s constantly searching for networks. Aileen picks up those signals from a radius of around 50 metres, in real-time. It then packages up the data and sends it back to HQ or NGO users in the field in an easy-to-understand format.

It’s then simple to use Aileen’s data to assess population numbers in real time.

This WiFi tracking process is used in many public locations in the developed world. In the Netherlands, for example, it’s employed by the national train company NS at mainline stations, metro stations and at Schiphol Airport.

The business uses the data to improve customer service and safety because it shows how many people are using facilities at any given time.

The same technology benefits NGOs working on camp management and migrant flows, allowing for more impactful decision making.

Knowing the environments where Aileen is used can be harsh, the unit is built robustly. It ships with UPS battery backup for when power drops, and it stores data locally if the network goes down.

All configuration is done off-site, so Aileen just needs to be turned on locally to begin.

Recieving Aileen's data

Where a signal is available, Aileen boxes send data to a cloud server in real time. If the signal goes down, Aileen can store data for months if needed before sending it to the cloud once the signal is restored.

The NGO then accesses its bespoke dashboard on the web via secure, password-protected login.

The video shows how this data is organised to give the user quick insights on key performance indicators (KPIs). The charts are interactive, allowing for further analysis.

The importance of data privacy

NGOs must confirm they can protect the privacy of the data received from Aileen boxes. Further, those NGOs on the ground should inform displaced persons that the technology is being used and why.

The recent Refugee Connectivity Survey confirmed the great majority of refugees (86%) are willing to give personal information to a trusted party. Most, however, object to being monitored without permission.

In every use case, any privacy concerns should be weighed against the clear benefits the system can bring to urgent aid efforts.

We take data privacy and algorithm transparency seriously and have made Aileen open source. The software is open source and can be audited to confirm data is used as intended.

Reach out today to find out more

We’d love to tell you more about how Aileen can help you make life-changing decisions in the field. Please contact us today.

This article was written in collaboration with Seita B.V.