SmartAid warehouse workers give a thumbs up
By Therese Van Ryne | December 17, 2021

The Ingenuity of One Zebra Partner Has Helped Empower Over 7,000 Front-line Heroes Through Several Humanitarian Crises, Enabling Them to Reach Over One Million People in Need’s innovation, combined with mobile, artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud technologies, helped SmartAID healthcare providers, relief workers, search and rescue teams, and field technicians save lives and alleviate suffering.

International non-governmental organization (NGO) SmartAID collaborates with a wide range of stakeholders: entrepreneurs, start-ups, manufacturers, the business community, impact investment community, local governments, donors and academics. It has a common objective to create, adapt and/or fund technological solutions and programs developed specifically to solve humanitarian challenges.

As SmartAID CEO and Founder Shachar Zahavi recently said, “We place people at the centre of the design and application of technology to provide the most productive and impactful support to communities in need. For humanitarian agencies like us, the pandemic has proven that secure, real- time, remote collaboration through the implementation of technology has never been more urgent when it comes to saving lives.”

However, SmartAID is not like many other NGOs or large corporate enterprises with unlimited resources – and its responsibility does not end at an airport or a warehouse. The SmartAID team tracks the aid it provides all the way to the end recipient and ensures campaign and mission donors and partners have full visibility of when, where and who the aid has reached. That’s a heavy lift considering it has delivered over $13 million in aid to date and its support extends across every continent, mostly in developing countries or disaster situations where expediency is absolutely critical.

Fortunately, almost all the developing countries where SmartAID has projects are mobile-first nations, meaning they have low personal computer penetration but very high mobile penetration, with Android™ being the preferred operating system (OS) due to device brand choice and price range.

So, with a little bit of innovation and the right technology partner – Zebra Independent Software Vendor (ISV) Partner, – SmartAID was able to come up with a way to track aid movements and deliveries, even from a distance. It became a literal life saver during the pandemic.

How Android Mobility Solutions, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Other Technologies Have Helped Sustain Aid Efforts

Up until late 2019, SmartAID – like many international NGOs – would deploy its own front-line teams for each project to work directly with partner NGOs and document aid shipments in action. Once COVID-19 emerged, this was no longer possible due to changing border and immigration requirements and safety concerns.

“With much of the globe, including our own teams, either locked down or directly affected by COVID-19, we were watching a desperately spiralling situation unfold before our very eyes with so many devastating and heart-breaking images,” explained WizyVision CEO Laurent Gasser. “We knew as a company we had to act and offer to lend a hand.”

Around that same time, with its board and management team dispersed across different locations and time zones, it became apparent to SmartAID that it needed real-time, remote visibility into what was both needed and being provided by local teams in the field. This was critical in continuing to reach those people who needed help and to continue to be able to report back to donors and support ongoing fundraising efforts.

However, SmartAID quickly discovered that it wasn’t enough to simply ask partners and volunteers in the field to take pictures and send them through. With multiple projects occurring simultaneously in different countries, images were being sent via different media to different individuals. And project summaries were scattered across multiple devices and media. It became challenging and time-consuming for the SmartAID team to piece everything together, and it was near impossible for a remote team to find and collaborate on images. Also, the risk of losing valuable images and data was high.

So, the WizyVision team connected with SmartAID to offer a solution that would support the valuable work done by the organization and ensure it could continue during the pandemic’s darkest hours.

The WizyVision Intelligent Image Database and WizyVision Frontspace App for front-line workers (available in the Google Play store) is built on Google Cloud and Google’s Vision API. WizyVision is a cloud software-as-a-service (SaaS) product that uses images to power front-line work.

The SmartAID administrator is now able to pre-configure projects and missions in the web-based console and invite users who are on the front line at the location where aid is being delivered to collaborate and contribute to the project. The pre-configuration involves providing role-based access along with enforced tagging in the intelligent digital image database.

This provides multiple outcomes and improvements for SmartAID volunteers, partners, and other stakeholders. For example, when a person in the field downloads the Frontspace front-line worker app and logs in from an Android device, they can capture and upload a photo, document or video to the intelligent image repository in just one click. The role and enforced tagging means the files are automatically sorted and categorized in the repository on upload – the front-line worker does not need to worry about to whom, when or how to send items. Plus, each worker can only see the pictures related to their role, so there is no risk of mixing documents and photos from different countries and projects or having those photos tampered with. The Frontspace front-line worker app also allows the administrator to preconfigure a workflow or process for additional data collection and tracking of cases and tasks linked to the images taken.

Photo credit: SmartAID - Beirut Paediatric Hospital following explosion

There are also benefits for the SmartAID Management Team and Board. For example, by leveraging a Google Cloud-based solution like WizyVision, device storage is no longer needed and digital assets are secured in one place. There are also user access controls that provide additional security. The administrator can set access rights so that SmartAID has full visibility of all projects and real-time access to on-the-ground situations. This leads to significant time savings as photos and documents are already sorted and very easy to search. Additional tags can be added to assist with filtering if needed. Location data contained in the photos provides the ability to visualize projects on a map along with evidence of time, date, location of aid delivered. It can include any related images along with the name of the person responsible for the drop. The best part is that SmartAID management and Board members can view all projects from their phones. They can choose and download assets to send via email or select photos to post on social media. They’re even able to add tags and additional information to enhance data sets.

Web Interface

SmartAID workers responding to the Miami condo collapse along with details about the team's location in the Wizy app

Furthermore, SmartAID partners and members of the press can access select photos to use for their own reporting purposes via the web or the Frontspace front-line worker app. Using additional Google Cloud tools such as Auto ML, the SmartAID WizyVision image repository can be configured so logistics companies that provide freight free of charge, for example, can access and share only the aid photos in which their logo appears. And reporters can download specific photos that are designated for use in a media story. 

The SmartAID collection of photos in the Wizy app

The Initial Impact and Continuing Ripple Effect

Because of the WizyVision team’s quick actions during the pandemic, over 7,000 SmartAID team members were able to carry forward critical aid to over one million people around the world:

  • Tunnelling experts helped recover bodies in the Surfside building collapse.
  • Over 4,000 oxygen concentrators were deployed to health centers across India.
  • Face masks were distributed in Papau New Guinea and Fiji.
  • Power was restored faster to communities after Hurricane Ida.
SmartAid healthcare workers show love to the community

The technology solution WizyVision delivered allowed them to focus on their critical work without administrative burden. It also made collaboration with SmartAID’s remotely located management teams seamless. Equally notable, it gave a voice to front-line workers via the use of images. Or should I say, it gives them a voice. To this day, the solution is still being used by front-line SmartAID teams working to save lives, put up solar and telecoms equipment, and build STEM labs, among other things.

Zebra Nation applauds the incredible work being done by SmartAID, and we’re proud to call a partner! In fact, we recently made a $5,000USD donation to SmartAID on’s behalf to honor its efforts to help restore front-line heroes and give back to those in need. If you would like to make an additional contribution to SmartAID, you can do so here.


Did You Know?

SmartAID’s work primarily supports the first 10 of the 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development (SDG) outlined by the United Nations in 2015. The unifying thread is the commitment to eradicate poverty in all its forms and dimensions as the indispensable requirement for sustainable development.

Corporate Social Responsibility, Innovative Ideas, Inside Zebra Nation,
Therese Van Ryne
Therese Van Ryne

Therese Van Ryne is Senior Director of External Communications for Zebra Technologies. She joined Zebra as part of the acquisition of Motorola Solutions Enterprise business in October 2014. She and her team are laser focused on growing the company’s brand awareness globally aligned with business objectives. Her accomplishments include leading Zebra events with Harvard University and TED as well as the creation of the annual Intelligent Enterprise Index, resulting in positive media coverage, customer engagement and revenue growth.

Prior to Motorola Solutions, Van Ryne worked at SC Johnson where she led corporate communication strategies and drove PR and branding efforts for leading consumer products. One of her top achievements was leading the Windex® placement in the film, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” resulting in a 25% sales increase for the brand.

One of PR News’ 2019 Top Women in PR and Crain's Chicago's 2021 Most Notable Executives in Marketing, Therese also has experience as a journalist, editor and producer, reporting nightly from Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Van Ryne holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications and Journalism from Marquette University and an Executive Leadership Master’s Certificate from Cornell University.

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