Hurricane Sandy—now Superstorm Sandy—is slowly pulling away from the coast, but has left in its wake damage measurable in the billions of dollars. Millions without power, and even some who have lost their lives, all are part of the story of this colossal storm. But in the face of disaster, technology has an important role to play in both protective measures during the event and the recovery to follow. M2M—Machine to Machine—solutions are no different, and in many cases, prove their truest worth when lives are on the line.
There are several examples of M2M solutions providing powerful tools for emergency crews: a variety of solutions already exist that allow emergency responders to get up-to-the-minute information, including their current position via GPS, that can be displayed on portable devices. Moreover, some projects are in the works that will allow for that same kind of functionality even when GPS technology isn't specifically available.
MIT, for example, is currently at work on a project that will allow users to create an instant, digital map of their surroundings thanks to a series of sensors that can be worn on the clothing that converts the information those sensors collect into a complete map of the immediate area. This essentially serves as a kind of GPS that can work inside a building, where GPS commonly does not. While this particular technology is at the prototype stage, once the issues are worked out, the system might well prove to be miniaturized sufficiently to make it travel anywhere easily. This doesn't just have applications in the emergency management field, of course, but it also has a series of applications for regular users as well, including navigating within buildings and finding certain rooms, apartments or offices.
Additionally, while there are a growing number of applications geared toward emergency responders, there are also applications for regular people to have on hand in the event of an emergency. For instance, MEMA—the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency—has one for Massachusetts residents in the form of Ping4alerts!, an app that provides information direct from MEMA itself in the event of an emergency. Evacuation notices, specific instructions and similar information can be disseminated to users, and allow them to cut through the fog that so often accompanies a disaster. Better yet, MEMA's app offers what's known as “geofencing,” which ensures that the information in question only goes to those people who most need it at any given time. Getting a warning meant for someone else doesn't help much, but for the right person in the right place, the right warning may save lives.
Technology has responded to disasters—and helped to prevent them—almost as long as there has been technology in the first place. The growing focus on mobile devices has provided several new outlets for disaster response, providing valuable information for those who need it most, where they need it most. The advancement of technology has provided several crucial outlets for disaster response, and taking advantage of that advancement is a smart idea that may well ultimately save lives.
Edited by Rachel Ramsey