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Hala Systems is using Hedera Hashgraph — a secure alternative to blockchain technology — to anchor a system that warns Syrians of impending conflict or natural disasters.

Hala Systems is a social enterprise aimed at protecting citizens from misinformation. It created the Sentry system to deliver early warnings of conflict to 2.1 million Syrians, using the Hedera Consensus Service for data provenance. Sentry notifications are sent via mobile phones, and the system issues an average of 140 early warnings per day, offering citizens approximately 7-10 minutes advance notice before bombings and other attacks.

Blockchain might seem like a good fit for this kind of system, as it is a secure and transparent distributed digital ledger that can be used to verify information. But it hasn’t been as secure as it could be, which Hala Systems discovered when it tried using Ethereum blockchain in an early attempt.

“Blockchain and distributed ledgers use decentralized infrastructure to enable a greater level of trust by having each transaction be recorded by multiple independent parties,” Hala Systems CEO John Jaeger said in an email to VentureBeat. “Initially, Hala explored the smart contract platform Ethereum. Ethereum achieves probabilistic consensus — the act of the connected set of computers reaching agreement on a transaction’s validity — through a common mechanism called ‘proof of work.’ Hala quickly realized that Ethereum’s smart contracts with highly variable fees and slow confirmation times weren’t the right fit.”

In search of a more scalable alternative, both technically and financially, the team found Hedera. The Hedera network uses a faster, more secure alternative to blockchain called hashgraph. The hashgraph consensus algorithm and data structure allows the public ledger to operate more efficiently, with higher speeds and drastically lower costs, Jaeger said.

Hala is aware that the kind of online information that informs crucial decisions and impacts lives can be easily manipulated and faked, Jaeger said. But with hashgraph, Hala Systems can show people digital media, including photographs, videos, and audio files, and be confident about its authenticity.

Hala Sentry empowers civilians to record immutable data from their smartphones, warning others of potential dangers, accurately documenting events as they happen, and providing credible records, he said. Sentry uses a multi-sensor network to generate credible, real-time situational awareness in order to provide early warning notifications and first responder coordination to people devastated by man-made and natural disasters, Hedera said.

Remote sensing and artificial intelligence instantaneously identify information, including audio sirens, visual warnings, radio broadcasts, and social media alerts, allowing humanitarian organizations to effectively allocate scarce resources to protect and serve vulnerable civilian populations. Digital media sources are stored on Hedera’s platform as a transparent and tamperproof record, which allows stakeholders a single source of truth.

In an analysis of multiple offensives in northwest Syria since 2017, Sentry was correlated with a 10% to 30% mean reduction in net casualty rates due to airstrikes, with 250,000 people benefiting from reduced traumatic anxiety (data verified by Exigo).

Hala Systems has also partnered with the United Nations, U.K. Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, the U.S. State Department, and other foreign ministries for similar conflict warning systems. A Red Cross report talks about Hedera and other tech used for humanitarian purposes.

Hedera Hashgraph is owned and governed by a council of organizations, including Avery Dennison, Boeing, Deutsche Telekom, DLA Piper, FIS (WorldPay), Google, IBM, LG Electronics, Magalu, Nomura, Swirlds, Tata Communications, University College London (UCL), Wipro, and Zain Group.

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