The iCare project emerged from ideas shared by two Berkeley College students, while watching he devastation of Hurricane Katrina unfold:
After hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, Berkeley Engineering graduate students Ephrat Bitton and Anand Kulkarni watched with the rest of the world as logistical snafus, bureaucratic red tape and communication breakdowns prevented charitable aid from quickly reaching the stormâ€™s victims. There was a disconnect between those who had something to offer and those who needed it. Since then, the two students have spent their free time developing a Web application to help ensure that such a disconnect would never happen again. Their system automatically pairs donors with those in need, creating a “marketplace of charity” while putting a human face on the process of giving.
[…] After a disaster, victims can log onto the website and report their specific needs, and those requests will be connected to donorsâ€”companies or individualsâ€”who are offering that particular kind of aid. The researchers also hope that this demand-response approach will reduce the wasteful excess of some goods and the shortage of others.
“The next step is to get the supplies from point A to point B as quickly and inexpensively as possible,” says Kulkarni, a student of IEOR department chair Ilan Adlerâ€™s.
To attack the logistics problem, iCare leverages wasted space on commercial trucks constantly traversing the nation, dropping off goods and returning partially or entirely empty. Once it is fully operational, iCare will access existing databases of shippers willing to donate their empty space. The researchers’ algorithm then calculates the best route, often involving a relay race of multiple trucks, to get the donated goods to the victim using just the surplus space.