Rescuers Finding Missing People with AI Technologies

VimpelCom PJSC (Beeline brand)

3. Good Health and Well-Being 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities 17. Partnerships for the Goals Flourish Prize Honoree - For Business as an Agent of World Benefit - Weatherhead School of Management

Overview

VimpelCom technological opportunities are effective tools for a wide range of social problems. This story will be about how VimpelCom participates in ‘Liza Alert,’ a rescue team of lost people, operating by using communication and technological resources.

Authors

Evgeniia Pechnikova

Evgeniia Pechnikova

Irina Zhuravleva

Irina Zhuravleva

School

National Research University Higher School of Economics

National Research University Higher School of Economics

Professor

Ekaterina Ivanova

Ekaterina Ivanova

Innovation

Each year, across Russia’s vast and rugged landscape, around 120,000 people – including 45,000 children – go missing. In addition to the untold pain caused to individuals and families, emergency services devote countless resources to search and rescue operations. It’s a rapid response, often crucial in finding a missing person alive and well.

Beeline has partnered with 'Liza Alert' – Russia’s largest search and rescue squad – since 2011 to identify and quickly locate missing people across eight time-zones. Beeline has donated a 24/7 information hotline service to Liza Alert and has used a mass-SMS service to quickly activate thousands of volunteers spread across 46 participating cities in Russia.

Today, the cooperation represents a big force of help, as said by Evgeniia Pechnikova, Head of CSR in Beeline: "Now, over 9 years of cooperation with Lisa Alert, when thanks to our technologies, included into the powerful volunteer effort, they have already turned into a very serious responsible civil force, which in many ways drives the development of civil society in Russia."

Innovation is brought through new technologies, such as AI. Technologies used in the AI-project are useful not only for societal aims but for government purposes, according to Evgeniia Pechnikova: "for example, as soon as we make a decision to search for missing people with the help of drones, it turned out that the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the police, and even the environmental agencies may be interested in this decision as well. Because the mechanism for recognizing any objects from drones can be used for various purposes, including to monitor unauthorized landfills or something else, they find new applications in government tasks. This, of course, is generally very promising for the B2G (Business to Government) sector".

Furthermore, SBD projects increase business prestige. Their joint project ‘Beeline AI-People Search’ won the Best Mobile Operator Service for Consumers nomination at the GSMA Global Mobile Awards 2020. In 2019, Beeline also won the competition, but in a different category. The joint project of Beeline and Motorica on remote monitoring of high-tech assistive devices won the Best Use of Mobile for Accessibility & Inclusion nomination.

Rescuers Finding Missing People with AI Technologies

Inspiration

Implementation of projects in social responsibility and sustainable development is a risk management activity for the company. Through such projects, VimpelCom is managing environmental, social, and government (ESG) risks and developing the company's brand in the context of social responsibility.

VimpelCom’s choice of projects is based on several criteria: firstly, it connects with the main business (telecommunications). The company has to evaluate the potential synergy of its business, technologies, and competencies with the project. Secondly, VimpelCom analyses the level of its own influence on the potential results of the project. And thirdly, the scale of the problem being solved. The company is interested in finding solutions for wicked problems.

The 'Liza Alert' project fits in all three criteria for VimpelCom: "The problem of missing people is typical for the whole of Russia, and we analyzed that our involvement can significantly change the situation. Probably no other industry, neither retail nor oil and gas, no one else can influence this problem more effectively than we can, because we have geodata technologies, we have base stations, we have, in general, communication technologies that help people communicate. And this problem will be the most effectively solved if we use our technologies in the right direction", as told by Evgeniia Chistova.

Overall impact

The technologies that VimpelCom offers to ‘Liza Alert’ can be used in various industries. One of the fundamental solutions was the contact center organization with free hotline numbers all over Russia.

In addition, VimpelCom provides SMS mailing to specific regions, cities, and even streets/buildings. VimpelCom has developed analytical systems, which can process big geo-data and help with finding missing people.

Moreover, VimpelCom has developed flying-drones management systems that can deal with a large number of searching problems. For two years of operation of the SMS-informing service about missing people, more than 5 million messages were sent, of which about 3.5 million were sent in 2019. According to the latest data, 55,000 volunteers have subscribed to the SMS about the search for ‘Liza Alert.’

"As soon as ‘Liza Alert’ got our number 8800, it was named the first hotline in Russia to search for missing children at that time. It later became a line to search for missing people. This trigger worked, that 8800 is free, and calls from all over Russia began to arrive at Liza Alert", said Evgeniia Chistova.

In the short term, the innovation will lead to more rescued people across the Russian Federation. In the long term - the whole process of helping lost people can dramatically change the country with more usage of technology resources.

Business benefit

The technology solutions developed for ‘Liza Alert’ can be extensively used for its main business activities, especially in the B2B and B2G directions.

The project became part of Beeline’s general sustainable development strategy in 2017 and ensured that the UN's Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the world community in 2015 are met; make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable; and strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.

Because Beeline company cooperates with ‘Liza Alert,’ many improvements, both with business-related outcomes and non-business ones, have occurred. The loyalty of employees raised by 30%. Current employees did many technological implementations, so there was a special team project for ‘Liza alert.’ Team members shared that they were happy to be part of such an important project for so many people. They felt proud and very engaged to do the best work possible. Year by year, the cooperation expands to new cities in Russia, especially among the big ones, where Beeline's stores are located.

Social and environmental benefit

More than 8,514 missing people were found alive in 2018 from a total of 10,789 searches. The continued success of 'Liza Alert' has also encouraged a national debate about the valuable role of societal organizations, such as 'Liza Alert.' Russia’s Children's Rights Commissioner, Anna Kuznetsova, said: “The collaboration between 'Liza Alert' and Beeline is a fantastic model of how societal organizations and private companies can use technology to work together to address social issues, such as missing people.”

Beeline and Liza Alert are also looking forward to achieving an ambitious target of 100,000 new volunteers by the end of 2021 and to create new IT and digital solutions to make search and rescue operations more efficient and predictable. The next step is to invest in machine learning tools to predict lost people’s movements and create a platform whereby office employees who cannot participate in real rescue operations can still make their own positive impact by analyzing pictures made by search drones. The main goal was to attract as many people as possible and encourage them to fill in the form on the website to become volunteers of the 'Liza Alert' squad.

"The solutions which we have developed for ‘Liza Alert’ drive the development of their community, and it forms a civil society with people who take an active position in solving problems. Plus, it helped to seriously advance the topic of security and the concept of saving people, even at the level of the police and the Ministry of Emergencies. The Ministry of Emergencies is now adopting such practices and technologies. Often the Emergencies Ministry forwards cases and reports of missing persons directly to 'Liza Alert' if it is not related to criminal cases because they have objectively more expertise and competencies," said Evgeniia Chistova.

This contribution changes many lives - from one to a thousand, and the effect will grow year by year. Such a positive impact on the world makes the business better and ourselves as better human beings.

Interview

Evgeniia Chistova, Head of Sustainable Development

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VimpelCom PJSC (Beeline brand)

VimpelCom PJSC (Beeline brand)

Moscow, -, RU

Business Website: https://moskva.beeline.ru/about/about-beeline/

Year Founded: 1992

Number of Employees: 10000+

VEON Ltd. Group of Companies is an international telecommunication company (listed on NASDAQ and Euronext Amsterdam). VimpelCom (Beeline) is one of the largest assets of VEON. Beeline offers its customers communication and Internet services. Nowadays, Beeline has become a telecommunication operator and a digital company with a variety of services and products for both B2C and B2B clients. Beeline invests a lot of resources into social development.