Mapúa launches ground-breaking technology to detect vulnerability of structures vs earthquakes
Dr. Enrico C. Paringit, Executive Director of DOST PCIEERD, Secretary Fortunato T. Dela Peña of DOST, Dr. Reynaldo B. Vea, President and CEO of Mapúa University, and Dr. Francis Aldrine A. Uy, Founder of USHER Technologies Inc. in the USHER Business Technology License Agreement Signing at Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila last September 2, 2019
Mapúa University has unveiled a major breakthrough in disaster preparedness. It recently introduced its project Universal Structural Health Evaluation and Recording System or USHER, which determines the structural integrity of buildings and other infrastructure in hopes of reducing casualties in the event of a devastating earthquake.
USHER regularly monitors structure or building integrity remotely through its 24/7 web portal. It can also determine the strength of an earthquake and send warning signals to concerned government agencies and building officials.
This new technology is expected to save many people’s lives should a big earthquake hit the West Valley Fault, which runs through several cities in Metro Manila. Through the use of this new technology, proponents believe it has the ability to reduce casualties and structural damage.
THE PEOPLE BEHIND USHER
USHER began as an idea of its founder Dr. Francis Aldrine A. Uy, alumnus and dean of Mapúa’s School of Civil, Environmental, and Geological Engineering (CEGE).
Dr. Uy was exposed to civil systems at University of California, Berkeley, during the time when instrumentation of buildings became the talk of the town in the civil engineering communities. He realized that structural health monitoring is not an option but a necessity.
The breakthrough came after Mapúa’s School of CEGE became involved in the Phil-Lidar 1, a billion-peso project funded by the government for the production of flood models and hazard maps of various river systems in the Philippines. Mapúa was among the 14 higher education institutions selected for the project and the University’s proposal for Phil-Lidar 1 was chosen by DOST. Through this success, Uy and his partners were introduced to DOST-PCIEERD (Department of Science and Technology –Philippine Council for Industry, Energy, and Emerging Technology Research and Development). He brought the project proposal for USHER to DOST and soon after, it received approval and was granted funding by the department.
From there, his project has expanded through various collaborations with institutions like DOST-PCIEERD, PHIVOLCS, DPWH, and Mapúa’s very own School of Electrical, Electronics, and Computer Engineering (EECE), creating an all-Filipino team of topnotch engineers and experts for USHER’s sustainability, continuity, and strategy developments.
Mapúa’s School of EECE designed and developed the electronic sensors in the USHER system, from proof-of-concept prototypes to commercial-grade products. “We have implemented different versions of USHER sensors: by transforming the product specifications, circuit diagrams, printed circuit layouts, and firmware codes into prototypes; by engaging with electronic manufacturer to design the prototypes for mass production; and by working with international laboratories for product tests and certifications,” said Prof. Febus Reidj G. Cruz of Mapúa’s School of EECE and Research and Development Director of USHER Technologies, Inc.
“The sensors in USHER system were designed accordingly with every specification set by the government. The materials of sensors were carefully selected, the features were intricately implemented in compliance with the specifications, and the design was validated by certifications from international testing laboratories,” he added.
The team kept motivated to move forward with the project, as they considered it as a critical technology. The reports from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) that an earthquake with a 7.2 magnitude could lead to an estimated 34,000 people dead kept the team motivated to push the USHER project.
RESEARCH AND DEDICATION OF MAPÚA UNIVERSITY
Engr. Michael B. Baylon, Senior Technical Sales Manager of USHER Technologies Inc. presenting USHER system to the USHER Structural Engineering Partners (USEPs) who attended the launching event
According to its values, Mapúa University is an institution that gives importance to the research and development team of its stakeholders. With the belief that new discoveries and innovations can lead to a better society, the institution produced environmentally friendly and economically viable researches and publications.
“USHER marks Mapúa’s first foray into bringing the fruits of research, development, and innovation (RDI) to the market. We hope that it would be very widely used for the safety of our countrymen,” said Dr. Reynaldo B. Vea, president and CEO of Mapúa University.
Dr. Uy likewise emphasizes that USHER is a Mapúa community initiative. “Since the establishment of Mapúa in 1925, this is our first major technical contribution to society,” he added. There have been major contributions of individual alumni but this is an institutional accomplishment.
Some of the research efforts conducted by Mapúa include disaster mitigation, disaster risk reduction and management, green and sustainable building, environmental sustainability, and medical endeavors.
HOW PH WOULD BENEFIT FROM USHER?
“From disaster preparedness and response in the 70s to disaster management in the 80s and 90s, the Philippines have moved into risk disaster risk reduction and management with the passage of the Republic Act 10121 or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act. We are optimistic that USHER will be a formidable tool for urban planners, structural engineers, and local government units who would want to plan ahead and be ready in the event that we are hit by an earthquake,” said DOST Secretary Fortunato Dela Peña.
USHER system is the next-generation structural health monitoring system composed of an earthquake-recording instrument (ERI) – a device that records vibratory response and trigger earthquake alarms – and a web portal.
The monitoring system is more than the regular ERI, as it exceeded the compliance guidelines set by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) on earthquake recording instrumentation for buildings. These include seismic qualifications, highly equipped sensors, communication capacity, recording, triggering, and power maintenance, among others.
(L-R) Engr. Raul C. Sabularse, Deputy Executive Director of DOST PCIEERD, Mr. Ivin Ronald D.M. Alzona, Assistant Secretary for Administration of DICT, Ms. Rachelle Ann L. Miranda, Deputy Spokes Person of NDRRMC, Ms. Yvonne S. Yuchengco, Vice Chairman of Malayan Insurance Co. Inc., Chairman Danilo D. Lim of MMDA, Dr. Reynaldo B. Vea, President and CEO of Mapúa University, and Dr. Francis Aldrine A. Uy, Founder of USHER Technologies Inc.
USHER has exceeded these requirements and also provided additional features like fire and alarm detection system integration, 24/7 remote data retrieval, interpretation, and storage through the USHER web platform.
Also, its web portal system allows developers, building owners, and even the government to remotely monitor and analyze the structural integrity of buildings and other structures. Using the data collected and entered into this system, the authorities and structural engineers could gain valuable insights on how a structure would respond to earthquakes and other ground movements.
Aside from that, it is the most economical option for safety because it offers a reasonably priced system compared to its predecessors and other available systems in the market while also giving enhanced features and results.
“USHER brought together technological innovation and cost efficiency in a system that will efficiently and practically monitor the structural integrity of our buildings and bridges to ensure compliance to government standards,” said DPWH Undersecretary Maria Catalina Cabral.
The remote data retrieval would likewise assure building owners that monitoring is done regularly and accurately without personally visiting locations.
Through the use of this mechanism, the government and the private sector could work together to strengthen vulnerable communities to be more resilient and avoid possible building collapse.
"USHER greatly lowers the cost of compliance and levels up safety awareness. We have embedded in our business model the education of all stakeholders including advanced training for structural engineers. We have developed a web portal, an advanced data analytics platform. With USHER, we envision our cities to become safer, more resilient, and sustainable," said Uy.
To date, several USHER devices are already installed in significant structures including Malayan Plaza in Pasig, Prima Residences in Quezon City, One Legaspi Park in Makati, Triumph Building in Quezon City, and Richville Place in Manila.
BRINGING USHER TO THE GLOBAL MARKET
The Mapúa dean disclosed his plans of bringing USHER to the global market especially to countries located in the Pacific Ring of Fire.
“In the future, we hope to make it global. We will export our product and our structural health engineering expertise to many other countries. It is our aim to introduce USHER to as many countries as we can because we never know when natural disasters strike. This is a critical technology,” said Uy.
“USHER is proudly Filipino made. This technology can put our country on the map as top innovative nation,” he added.