Cauayan City Navigates Typhoon Damage with Help of Singapore Startup Graffiquo

CAUAYAN City, which is part of the Cagayan Valley region, and located in the north of the Philippines, is no stranger to typhoons.

According to Cauayan City Mayor Bernard Faustino Dy, the Philippines in general gets about 20 typhoons every year. In Cauayan, they average between seven to 10 major typhoons per year.

“Our experience in Cauayan or North Philippines is about seven to 10 major typhoons per year. We normally get devastated in terms of infrastructure and damage to homes and crops. However, we make it to a point that we have zero casualty every time we encounter these disasters,” he said.

When a typhoon hits, it can take several days, weeks and sometimes months to assess the damage and rebuilt the city. During typhoons, soil erosion takes place and can damage essential staple crops such as rice and corn. As such, assessors could not provide accurate data of how much crop was affected and how to support farmers if another typhoon hits.

To overcome these challenges, in April 2020, Singapore startup Graffiquo, a digital twin software and service provider for cities, built the first integrated digital twin system for disaster resiliency for Cauayan City.

One of the interesting challenges faced by the team was that this was all happening in the midst of rising Covid-19 numbers.

“We started this project in April 2020 when Covid cases were rising and global travel restrictions were being implemented to reduce the spread of the virus. This is the best thing that Covid gave us – an opportunity to change the way we work,” said Graffiquo chief executive officer, Goh Seok Mei.

“Graffiquo taught Cauayan City’s drone pilots how to capture orbital aerial photos that can be processed into a digital twin. We took the opportunity to train the employees of the city to fly drones in a structured way for us to be able to model in photogrammetry.

“The aerial photos were used to create models that enabled city agencies and partners to analyse the riverbank, input population information, and identify individuals and communities with additional needs. The training, workshops and communication were all conducted online. One enormous outcome was the creation of new jobs and an increase in skill levels for the people working in the city.”

Today, the city is able to view an accurate city profiling of land area, infrastructure, bridges, houses and population density, and accurately predict where and when flooding will occur by monitoring things like soil erosion and river height.

Damage assessment is now reduced from days/ weeks/months to just one day and it can accurately dispatch emergency resources or assistances to areas in need of support, and assess the number of citizens affected or land being damaged to immediately rebuild.

When Typhoon Ulysses hit Cauayan on Nov 12, 2020, more than half the province was flooded, cutting access to roads, homes and electricity. The digital twin helped the city to deploy mitigation measures, conduct impact assessments and prioritise the initial disaster response.

Cauayan City officials were able to more accurately assess agricultural areas affected by floods, estimate potential yield losses, and better distribute aid to farmers. The digital twin is now used to rebuild damaged infrastructure, noted Ms Goh.

Graffiquo and Cauayan City recently won The Gamechangers Award at the Amazon Web Services City on a Cloud global competition.

“The Graffiquo and Cauayan City use case demonstrates how governments can leverage cloud technology to help them move faster to provide better, quicker mission-focused solutions,” said Tan Lee Chew, managing director for Asean, Worldwide Public Sector, at Amazon Web Services.

The annual Amazon Web Services City on a Cloud competition has, since 2014, recognised organisations with cloud-based solutions that positively impact communities around the world.

The global competition is opened to any government, non-profit, education and healthcare organisations to participate. This year, the competition expanded to include finalists from over 14 countries in search of how organisations are adapting to these unprecedented times and helping cities become more resilient.

Article Taken From: Asean Business