2018 Corporate Responsibility Report

Trust and responsibility.

Earned and practiced daily.

Dear Stakeholder,

Trust and responsibility have been cornerstones of IBM’s business since the beginning. These core values permeate our culture, from the labs to the boardroom. And they manifest in every relationship: with our employees, with our clients, and with the communities in which we live and work. In this report, you will read about the many achievements we made to further this foundation of trust and responsibility throughout 2018.

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Making tech for good: Project OWL

The winner of the first Call for Code Global Challenge keeps people connected after disasters.

The Project OWL Pilot: Puerto Rico
Duration: 2:12 minutes

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Puerto Rico, 2017

Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico with enormous force in 2017, killing thousands of citizens and leaving ruined infrastructure across the island. According to Nazario Lugo, president of Puerto Rico’s Association of Emergency Managers, one of the biggest crises in the storm’s wake was communication. Telephone service was down; the island depended on one working radio station and a lot of improvisation.

Photo: The Project OWL team traveled to Puerto Rico for two weeks in 2019.

Now, a small team of developers is working to deploy a new approach that can be used for post-disaster communication. Their Project OWL (for Organization, Whereabouts, Logistics) hardware/software solution can help create a temporary, low-cost network to keep people and emergency workers in touch.

Project OWL won the first Call for Code Global Challenge, which asked developers around the world to create new tools using open source-based technologies for humanitarian crises. Created by David Clark, CEO of David Clark Cause, and launched by founding partner IBM, along with support from the United Nations Human Rights Office, the Red Cross and the Linux Foundation, Call for Code offers a $200,000 prize to fund the development and execution of each year’s winning effort. Call for Code’s mission is to rally developers to use their skills and the latest technologies — and to create new ones — to drive positive and long-lasting change across the world.

Photo: Toy rubber ducks inspired the team’s approach to deploying a simple mesh network.
100,000+ developers participated in the 2018 Call for Code Global Challenge
Keep it simple

In the aftermath of Maria, says Project OWL team leader Bryan Knouse, “We were thinking, ‘How can we make this in a way so stupidly simple to be used that you don’t even have to think about it?’ It’s really hard to tell people who have been through a disaster, ‘Download this app, or go to this website.’”

It’s really hard to tell people who have been through a disaster, ‘Download this app.’
Bryan Knouse
Project OWL team leader
Photo: Hardware from Project OWL, known as DuckLinks, can float in flooded areas.
Photo: Hurricane Maria caused an estimated $94 billion worth of damage.
The “Ducklink”

Project OWL uses small, low-cost transmitters to create a low-frequency Wi-Fi network, which it calls “Ducklink.” (Their prototype low-power transmitters are called ducks.) In early 2019, the team traveled to Puerto Rico to pilot prototypes. The tiny transmitter boxes emit a low-frequency Wi-Fi connection that users can link to via smartphones. Once connected, a pop-up box in English and Spanish automatically appears and people can enter information including name, location, number of pets, medical needs and hazards such as fallen trees, downed power lines, fires or blocked roads. The information is relayed back through the Ducklink network and eventually to emergency officials.

During the test, Knouse’s computer dings every few minutes with messages that included names, location and details of a roving group that popped up on a map with messages such as “Help me please!” and “NEED WATER!!!” The team later met with members of a local Boys and Girls Club to introduce the technology to young users in hopes they could teach and share it with their neighbors.

The most important thing to me will be to deploy this for real.
Daniel Krook
Chief Technology Officer of Code and Response
Photo: In Puerto Rico, the team conducted field tests in a wide range of locations to test the solution in varying environments.