Just like any other restless evening, Vivek Justus was planning to spend this one in the company of friends, catching up, sharing stories, and having fun. But, an unexpected call from one of his closest friends – Dinesh – was not the catch up he was expecting. “Dinesh gave me a call informing that he and a friend of his have been in an accident. Dinesh was conscious enough to give me a call. After 15 minutes, we reached the spot of the accident. Dinesh and his friend had some injuries, but they seemed okay. But, the next 15 minutes changed the complete scenario and probably the direction of my life.” says Vivek, as he still shudders, recalling the incidents of that night. After coaxing Dinesh, they picked him and his friend up and headed towards the hospital. That’s when things started taking a turn for the worse. “The little time it took for us to reach the hospital – maybe around 15 minutes – I shockingly saw the life sucked out of Dinesh. His words started to mumble and his response time decreased significantly. I wasn’t able to do anything”, says Vivek, masquerading his apparent shock in the firmness of his voice. Upon reaching the hospital, Dinesh was admitted to the ICU and his parents were called upon. By 5 am in the morning, Dinesh was declared brain dead. A few days later, he passed away.
To date, Vivek feels the tremors of the day wrapping his emotions around in a lasso. “I was 17 then, and I felt so helpless. I couldn’t do anything to save Dinesh. Usually, I would have never bothered about an issue like this. But incidents like these jolt you to your core. I wanted to do something but I couldn’t. I had 11 arrears on my diploma. I felt that to stop others from having the same fate as Dinesh, I would have to extend my education and use it for a greater purpose” recalls Vivek.
So, Vivek cleared all his 11 arrears in a single attempt and joined Sathyabama University, Chennai to pursue a Bachelors in Computer Science Engineering. Since his admission in the college, Vivek has been working on developing a prototype mobile alert system that can send in an emergency response whenever an individual (s) is injured in a road accident. “I have long admired the 108 emergency system working in 18 states of the country and their prompt service that has saved thousands of lives. In Tamil Nadu itself, the 108 service handles almost 20000 calls a day. I felt my system can be configured with it and can add a new dimension to prompt rescue services,” recalls Vivek.
Initially, Vivek created an internet-based mobile phone system that can send the location of the injured promptly to designated rescue service. “I worked on it for the next 2 years. My college, Sathyabama University, and the chancellor Colonel Dr. Jeppiaar Sir supported me along the way and funded the R&D of my project. Now I feedback on its application. As I knew no one in the 108 services, I started going and just sitting in their office for the next 1 months, with no response at hand. I was about to quit, but luck had its own stroke.” recalls Vivek.
After a month of lifeless responses, the marketing head of 108 Tamil Nadu, Prabhudoss.B, called Vivek in and heard about his project. He was enthusiastic about the prototype but felt that as the prototype was based on a mobile phone, it might not work in cases when the phone is damaged in the accident. “That was the first tangible feedback I received on my innovation. Initially, I felt disheartened as I saw the 2 years of my work diluting down, but Prabhudoss sir held hope for me. He said that if I am able to create a black box-like gadget, then my device would be unique and tangible in saving lives. A device that does not rely on the internet or mobile phone as the medium”, says Vivek.
With a new thought in mind, Vivek rampantly amped up efforts and that’s how the latest version of the Auto Rescue system came into existence. It is a first of its kind communication device that can automatically relay a distress call in life-threatening situations such as a road accident, a fire outbreak, or an industrial emergency. Currently, being programmed to work in cases of road accidents, the system comprises a portable device, with built-in GPS and telephony services, that can relay a distress call to the 108 emergency services within 3 minutes of an accident. The device, utilizing cloud technology and the Internet of Things, is attached to the crash sensors of a four-wheeler, automatically detects the crash, and sends the location and related data to the 108 emergency services. The system relies on the GPS to triangulate a location, and send relevant data, without even using the internet. Moreover, it also opens a channel of audio communication between the injured and the emergency services so that if the injured is conscious, he can relay relevant information. Accordingly, the emergency services will send in the required number of ambulances. Also, if one sees someone injured on the road and would want to inform the services, they can do so with the help of the device.
The cost of the devices stands at around Rs. 3000 and Vivek deeply intends the government to pick it up in a larger stride for safety. “I am not working on this from the perspective of financial gain. I just want to gather enough support such that the device can be installed in as many vehicles as possible. The support of the government would be monumental for us, ensuring that thousands like Dinesh don’t lose their lives”, says an optimistic Vivek with a perceptible sign of faith in his voice as we ended the interview.
For his work with the Auto Rescue System, Vivek Justus was awarded the 3M – CII Young Innovator Challenge Award 2019 in the Service Innovation Category.