Cloud Computing – Helping RNLI Save Lives

Fishing is a dangerous business. In the waters surrounding the United Kingdom, an estimated 350 fishing crew lost their lives at sea between 1996 and 2007, according to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) . These figures do not include drowning related to leisure and other non-fishing craft.

The RNLI wanted to improve these sobering statistics by creating an automated alerting system that would keep fishing boats and individual crew members in continuous contact with its search and rescue services.  Working with Microsoft partner, Active Web Solutions (AWS),  RNLI implemented a search-and-rescue application called MOB Guardian (MOB stands for "man overboard") for UK fishing crews.

Here’s how MOB Guardian works: Individual crew members wear personal safety devices that stay in constant radio contact with a base unit fitted to the vessel. Falling overboard breaks radio contact and automatically triggers an onboard alarm simultaneous to sending a signal, via satellite, to the search-and-rescue service. The onshore alarm includes the position and details of the casualty, typically within two minutes of the incident, so the emergency services can immediately initiate the rescue.

Initially, MOB Guardian relied on an IT infrastructure of 15 servers in two datacentres.  This architecture could reliably support up to 10,000 boats.  In order to also offer MOB Guardian to the 500,000 leisure craft users in the UK required either a significant investment in additional datacentre capacity or transitioning the solution to a cloud-based environment where capacity could be added when needed.

This is exactly what RNLI and their Microsoft business partner has achieved by transitioning MOB Guardian to the cloud using Windows Azure.  The cloud-based approach provides low-cost and reliable infrastructure to enable many more seafarers to benefit from the additional safety and security provided by MOB Guardian, using their mobile phone as the transmitter in case of an emergency.

You can read more about the RNLI’s  innovative approach to saving lives using cloud computing here and view a video here

Posted by Ian

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