Climate tech can save lives | Inquirer Business

Climate tech can save lives

Komunidad founder Felix Ayque shares climate innovations at PH Agrifood Tech Summit 2022 at RCBC Plaza in Makati City. —CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Komunidad founder Felix Ayque shares climate innovations at PH Agrifood Tech Summit 2022 at RCBC Plaza in Makati City. —CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Many Filipinos have a “Yolanda” story, bitter memories of the supertyphoon that pummeled the Philippines in 2013, causing not just damage to homes and livelihood, but also trauma to survivors. One Bicolano tech engineer came up with the idea of making a communications software system that can help communities prepare better for disasters.

“The Philippines is a beautiful country but it’s also one of the most disaster-prone in the world, with the islands regularly struck by typhoons, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions,” says Felix Ayque, founder of Komunidad, a data company that specializes in analyzing and disseminating climate data through automated real-time messages. It’s a startup with the goal of “supporting businesses and people to adapt to climate change” through information dissemination, especially in coastal communities frequently hit by storms like Ayque’s hometown, Legaspi City.


“I had first-hand experience seeing the calamities and deaths that kept on happening, and thought of a more efficient way to connect the government agencies and the people so that preparations can be done quicker,” Ayque says.


Using his background in electrical engineering and experience in international business development, Ayque established Komunidad in 2021.

How it works

Komunidad is a “climate data and analytics software company providing digital transformation and decision support tools for climate resilience and sustainability.” When one receives, say, a storm warning text at 4 a.m. in Manila and counterchecks it on the city’s official Facebook page, that information came from Komunidad’s system, which had unified and simplified all the complex weather data and delivered to the local government, which automatically sent them to the residents.


Ayque serves as the chief operating officer. Their team is a mix of meteorologists, data scientists, IT developers and disaster risk reduction experts. Their offices are in the Philippines and Singapore, as Komunidad also serves villages in India and farmers in Cambodia.

“Most of our scientists are from Rizal Technical University, an underrated school with good scientists,” Ayque says.

The core product of Komunidad is the Climate Operations Center—“a multihazard, impact-based monitoring and early warning system” with four components. The Threat Monitor dashboard shows forecast analysis on the national and local levels, and the Site Risk Analysis displays data on a specific GPS location. Next they have the Early Warning Alerts sent via SMS and social media to the communities, followed by the Automated Reports sent to clients via email.

The system gives relevant data from extreme heat to mosquito activity. Pricing starts at $1,000 per year, with optional, more technical add-ons such as “Application programming interface and webhooks, dashboard, reports, data processing and custom software.”

“Communities can now set up their own Climate Operations Centers without investing in expensive equipment infrastructure and multiple software systems,” Ayque says. “It’s a scalable, scientific and data-driven approach to implement local risk analysis and early warning systems in cities.”

Automated advisory

Komunidad’s main customers are local governments and private organizations like Megaworld and Meralco that are in charge of sending information to their people via Viber, Facebook posts or SMS.

Some examples of automated messages read as: “Thunderstorm Advisory: Mandaluyong will experience thunderstorms in the next 45 minutes, plan activities accordingly” and “Alabang High Heat Index Red Alert. Head Index: 40 Deg C. Action: Drink lots of fluids.”

But what about the agencies that Filipinos usually get information from, such as the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration and National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council? There are many websites and too much content. Unless one is a scientist, it would be a lot of data to process, which isn’t easy especially with the inconsistent internet connection.

“There is no centralized system, and throughout the day, the information must always come from the local government,” he says. “Komunidad integrates all the available data into a simplified early warning system, so a disaster agency can focus on response instead of doing administrative work.”

Campaigns and grants

Quezon City is one of the cities using Komunidad. Its iRISE UP (Intelligent, Resilient & Integrated Systems for the Urban Population) system won the Climate Technology for Resilience Award at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Climate and Disaster Resiliency Recognition Awards. As of 2022, Komunidad has access to 250 data parameters and has built over 300 useful insights. “Globally, it has processed data for more than 2,000 locations and helped protect the lives of over 100 million people,” he says.

Komunidad’s pilot campaign was launched in August 2022 in Barangay Banocboc, a remote coastal town on Calaguas Island with around 4,000 people living off the grid. The Tech4Ed Center Project features a hub with internet connection and a public facility with digital tools developed by Komunidad.

With international financing, Komunidad also launched in October 2022 the Climate-Smart Siargao Project, a coastal resilience project backed by the United Kingdom Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. Nine Siargao municipalities are projected to have Komunidad systems by the end of 2024.

Heart of the community

“Tech can’t save lives if the people can’t understand it,” Ayque admits. And many residents in the barrios are not exactly open to new technology, like some fisherfolk who are used to “predicting” the weather just by looking at the sky. “It’s not just tech. It has to be a balance of tech and going deeper in the culture of the community as Komunidad is also a social impact organization,” he adds. This is where the community development experts—the heart of Komunidad—come in.

Komunidad cofounder and chief operations officer Allister Ayque is in charge of the tasks on site. On his LinkedIn profile, Allister says he “was a social development professional who worked on the ground with various sectors and communities in the Philippines” with “extensive experience in the nonprofit sector particularly in the fields of disaster risk reduction, social inclusion and community development.”

“I’m the tech guy, and my brother is more focused on the user,” Allister says. In any case that they encounter climate change deniers or people who believe that global warming is a hoax despite the scorching summer in the Philippines, an “impact team does the traditional approach of talking to people.”

It also took a while to sell the concept of automation to the barangay elders, he says. “For example, we explained how a 2 a.m. lightning alert can be automatically posted on Facebook by the system.”

Allister says the team is finetuning Komunidad as one of the country’s top tech “exports.”

Komunidad has partnered with Luxembourg-based startup Databourg Systems to launch the Philippines’ first rain-monitoring system using existing satellite terminals. Other collaborations are with New Zealand’s National Weather Service, MetService, and its subsidiary MetraWeather. Through these, villages serviced by Komunidad can integrate weather broadcast solutions in their disaster risk reduction and public information offices.

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“The Filipinos are the best advocates for this tech,” Ayque says. Going global is part of Komunidad’s vision as it pushes for climate adaptation and resilience through impact-based monitoring and affordable early warning systems for the “komunidad” (which means community in Filipino) that the tech company aspires to help.

TAGS: climate, technology

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