Last week I had the opportunity to go to Camp Roberts and do experiments with the Naval Postgraduate’s School RELIEF exercise at Camp Roberts, CA. GeoIQ has partnered with the QuickNets program including Ushahidi to provide dynamic visualization and analytics for situational awareness during disaster response. The 42,000 acres of rolling hills in Central California were the perfect backdrop to field our first mobile application.
The exercise was to test new technologies for identifying victims and dispatching responders more efficiently during disasters. For the purposes of the exercise victims were played by ribbons staked in the ground to act as a proxy of their location. To implement the test response system the Quicknets team used Ushahidi based microtasking, led by Cat Graham of HumanityRoad, to direct a volunteer core of responders. Microtasking is a brokerage function that facilitates voluntary selection of tasks by responders, monitoring status of those responses, and tracking them to closure.
At each location the victims were documented in a notebook. Responders recorded the victims condition and their location. This information was then texted with the identified victims description and location to the operations center. Additionally at each victim location we used the GeoIQ mobile application to mark the precise GPS coordinates, category and a picture of the victim.
During the response day, two teams of Israeli Hatzalah responders were dispatched by Quicknets working with NowForce and Camp Roberts base personnel to retrieve the ribbons as described by the dispatcher. At each location the responder collected the ribbon, but also closed the ticket by changing the category on the GeoIQ mobile application. The operation center was a flurry of activity. Dispatchers actively processed the incoming texts and the GeoIQ mobile app was updated in real-time as victims were discovered and collected.
As the afternoon wound down, there were several identified victims that had not been responded that we could see on the map. The Israeli team needed to head to the airport so John Crowley, Galit Sorokin and myself headed out with the GeoIQ mobile application and only using the map were quickly able to clear the field of the final eight ribbons and updated the status for operators back at base.
The bonus of pushing the field data back to the GeoIQ server – it was instantly discoverable by the Camp Roberts team and portable in over a half dozen formats. Also the data could then be combined with other field collected data like Ushahidi, Geocent, Nowforce, and traditional GIS data from various sources. It is critical that during disasters data is accessible and portable, and does not get trapped in any single system. This will be all the more true when data is coming from mobile applications. To this end we’ve been working with a variety of third party mobile apps so their data can easily be published for quick discovery and format translation.
For the Quicknets team this meant they could start running analysis on the data right away. In this case we took the mobile data from the field and aggregated to the five rescue regions to quantify the activity by area. We also were able to use intersection, filtering, merging and temporal visualization to analyze the entire exercise.
The exciting next steps is combining GeoIQ’s new streaming analysis into a Camp Roberts exercise. This would allow a responder to kick off a search of people using Twitter to request help, and stream that data live to the mobile application. The responder can then verify the social media on the ground through annotations from the mobile application. These annotations stream back in real time to the command center allowing dynamic collaboration between the two. The potential to leverage the human sensor network of mobile devices during a disaster is something we believe will be transformative. We’ve already seen its impact during Hurricane Irene, where social media directed responders to flooded areas well ahead of satellite imagery availability. We’ve also gotten great feedback from urban search and rescue teams on the combination. We’ll be blogging more about cool ways to interconnect streaming data and mobile applications soon – lots of cool projects under way. Camp Roberts was an awesome experiences and we look forward to hooking up with more cool technologies and people the next time around.
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