M2M Prepares for Disaster


In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, many cities and towns are reevaluating their disaster preparedness initiatives. When trouble strikes, whether it’s the result of weather, fire, or earthquake, M2M (machine-to-machine) solutions can play a major role in creating the best possible response to disaster.

Connected solutions can help emergency responders by providing realtime data related to a situation. By using tablets, smartphones, or other mobile devices, responders can access the latest information, as well as view their position using GPS. Researchers are also working on ways to help responders be aware of their location even when GPS may not be available, such as inside a building.

At MIT, www.mit.edu, researchers are working on a project designed to revolutionize emergency response by creating an instant map. The heart of the solution is a wearable sensor system that builds a digital map of a building or other environment in realtime. Right now, the system is in the prototype stage, undergoing experiments at MIT.

The system creates the map as a person moves through the environment. For example, to test the solution a student wearing the system walked around MIT’s campus, and sensors on the device transmitted data on his location back to a laptop in a conference room. Researchers could track the student’s progress on a map that was created as the student walked. Someday, the entire system could be the size of a coffee mug, making it easy for responders to take into the field. All the data collected can be instantly sent to another location for viewing.

In a disaster, officials also need to provide information to citizens. Connected devices offer a great way to send information to many people instantly. MEMA (Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency), www.mass.gov/mema, recently announced it is using a new public alerting technology for smartphone users. The system is called Ping4alerts! and it will allow public safety entities to alert citizens in an emergency, providing specific information and detailed steps for action. The app is free to citizens and also features geofencing technology, which allows MEMA to send targeted alerts to people in a specific area.

One major entity in the world of connected communications is TIA, (Telecommunications Industry Assn.), www.tiaonline.org, and in September 2011 the organization said one of the association’s main goals is to support the public-safety community, especially by helping to develop and maintain standards for the latest technology to be used by consumers, businesses, and governments. TIA said it was working to build out public-safety networks, as well as advocate for more interoperability among networks.

Creating systems for disaster relief that can work together is a major necessity, as is making sure the systems can remain intact during an emergency. M2M solutions can help meet these goals, which is why more cities are making them a part of their plans for responding to calamity.

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Connected World Issue
June/July 2014
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