Grillo: A New Seismic Alarm for Mexico City

By Fernanda Duque Hernández

Mexican Startup could save lives during quakes.

Mexico City is located in an active seismic zone. People who live in this metropolis are used to living with tremors, a situation that amazed Andres Meira, an English architect who in 2012 moved to the city. Around that time, a 7.8 Richter scale earthquake took place – the strongest since the devastating 1985 one – which helped Meira realize the importance of an efficient domestic seismic alert. From then on, he started to develop Grillo (Lit. “Cricket”).

Grillo has the appearance of a little white plastic box with an antenna, but inside of it there is a receiver that detects the signal of the seismic early warning from the Mexican Seismic Alert System, which sends out an alarm when a 5.5 movement on the Richter scale occurs. When this happens Grillo turn its light on and sounds the alarm, providing around 90 seconds to find safety.

Although there are many earthquakes alert that people can download from the internet to their smartphone, most of these apps are not directly connected to the Mexican Seismic Alert System. This leaves a much smaller window of warning than the advisory of 90 seconds before the event’s onset that Grillo features.

Meira told Forbes that Grillo has been developed using state of the art technology. Its compact size and simple system also make it more affordable than Sarmex, a device that also receives the alert firsthand from the Seismic Alert System but which costs around US $300 and is focused on industrial, commercial and government use rather than individual or home use.

Seismic Alarm Mexico City

But developing a cheaper and more efficient seismic alert system was not easy. Meira spent so much time looking for experts to help him to develop Grillo. “Yes there are many good people, but it took time,” he told to Forbes. “The first months were difficult; I checked on Campus Party and discovered that there was no one doing hardware, all of them were focused on software.”

Faced with this challenge, he consulted some of his friends in Silicon Valley who provided him advice and contacts to finish his project. Finally he had to order some of the pieces from China.

He then had to attract investors. And he seems to have succeeded.

The Grillo project has the support of the British Embassy, Deutsche Bank, investment from German non-profit Social Impact, as well as patronage from 500 startups and 180 fondeadores (people who through the web page fondeadora.mx support tech startups).

According to a message published on fondeadora.mx in January, Meira informed his supporters that Grillo was facing production-related problems with pieces ordered from China, which is why the device had not been launched yet.

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