Sunday, June 13, 2010

Connecting The Hardest Parts

Google does data – connecting the world in terms of data, information, and analytics. Want to know the cheapest hotel in Austin - - the connected world of Google allows you to search and pull data and information efficiently and effectively. Facebook does people - - connecting the world of individuals and communities. What Google is to data - - Facebook is to people. Want to see pictures of Aunt Helen’s new cat - - Facebook provides you the opportunity.

But who and how does one connect the world of data to the world of people in a real-time manner - - especially in those non-trivial endeavors where the health, safety, and welfare of the public are critical? The recent tragic flooding in the Albert Pike campgrounds in the Quachita Mountains in western Arkansas illustrates the paradox of our connected - - unconnected world. As of this Sunday, 18 bodies had been recovered with dozens more unaccounted for after a flash flood in the early hours last Friday.

This particular tragic example illustrates the disconnect between connecting the data rich world with the individuals, groups, and organizations that can actually utilize and implement the data and information. This is especially true with public domain information that has a fundamental requirement to be “pushed” to the general public in times of emergencies. We have the capability and capacity to monitor our natural and physical environment. From weather collection stations to modeling software to river gauging sites - - we have the elements in place to provide information in a real-time manner. Clearly remote areas are a challenge with respect to wireless transmission - - but time and technology can fix this particular issue and problem. If we could have linked data from the National Weather Service, to flow data on the Little Missouri River, and finally to eyewitness weather watchers - - with managers in the campground and individual campers - - the outcome might have been much different. Technology could have made us all a littler smarter – and turning dumb networks into smarter ones has the potential to save people and property.

The linked environment has changed the worlds of economics, commerce, culture, and governance - - we need to focus on those linking algorithms that connect data from our physical environment with people - - especially in the public health, safety and welfare domain. With advances in sensors, the spread of wireless communication, and real-time risk-based modeling systems - - look for “pushed” based public notification systems to make vast improvements worldwide over the next decade.

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