CiviGuard founder Zubin Wadia discusses Crisis Management 2.0 and how his company is working to change communications during an emergency.
What is ‘Emergency Communication 2.0?’
In a nutshell, it’s near real-time location-aware communication between a citizen and its government during an emergency. EC 2.0 systems are an order of magnitude faster than SMS/Voice based solutions due to them leveraging the power of Internet-scale delivery platforms optimized for smartphones and connected devices. They are also extremely resilient, capable of delivering valuable information to the citizen even when networks fail completely. Lastly, they are social network aware, enabling citizens to assemble relief teams and share resources during times of adversity. Trust, timeliness and transparency are the three tenets of EC 2.0.
What is the problem with civilian emergency communication today?
Most offerings today are focused on mass notification over as many information channels as possible. While this successfully raises awareness about a situation, it also raises confusion amongst citizens. Additionally, these solutions don’t take a citizen’s location into account or have a way of additional messages as a situation changes. Lastly, they are all SMS or Voice based leading to multiple dependencies across the communication loop and not enough redundancy. Just take the Times Square bomb threat that occurred recently, instead of cops in the perimeter yelling at people to move out of the danger zone, we could have sent targeted updates to their smartphones creating a friction-free evacuation. We got lucky that day. If that device would have gone off, there would have been absolute chaos and that same evacuation process wouldn’t have worked.
How did CiviGuard form?
We were born out of Singularity University – a program sponsored by NASA and Google to cultivate future technology leaders. About 1,200 students applied for 40 slots in 2009. For our team projects at the end of the program we were given one mission: positively impact the lives of a billion people in a decade. Our team chose to tackle the area of disaster response and zeroed in on the area of emergency notification, crisis reporting and real-time communication. That set the mission for CiviGuard: to build leading-edge technology platforms for the protection of human life in times of crisis.
Why is optimizing for smartphones a viable strategy?
The Nielsen Company predicts smartphones to outnumber feature phones by the third quarter of 2011. That’s not accounting for millions of connected devices leveraging WiFi such as the iPod Touch. By the end of 2011 – we expect the US to have 200 million connected devices and smartphones operational. Additionally – the most populous cities in the US already have smartphone adoption rates that are far higher than the national average – San Francisco and New York City for example are greater than 60% already. For those who haven’t migrated to smartphones, SMS and voice will remain sub-optimal ways of receiving emergency communications.