As the Emergency Management industry has evolved over time, technology has been incorporated in many aspects of preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery. If we had access to a crystal ball, what would the future role of technology in emergency management look like?
Here’s what we know…
There is no doubt that computers, in all their forms, have changed the game in several aspects of emergency management. Computers have taken planning from hand drawn to industrialised. Tools used for mitigation include engine powered devices for clearing brush to multi spectral image analysis used for gauging fuel loads in bushland. Communication tools have made response more coordinated and effective, social media has seen information disseminated across affected populations the preferred method of both one way and two way communications.
Many emerging technologies have great potential in disaster situations – the Internet of Things (IoT), while in an early stage of widespread use, will be the backbone of many of these emerging technologies. IoT is a system of uniquely identified things connected devices, people, animals and things. As the IoT technology evolves, more and more “things” will be connected and start to share data autonomously, giving the ability to monitor and collect other data without a requirement for human prompting, or even involvement. Mobile telephone networks are currently undergoing upgrades that will support the connection of things, and other network technologies are being developed that will allow niche scenarios, such as remote connectivity solutions, to be implemented. There will be a point in time when billions of things will be connected and will share data, in this future many interesting options are available to Emergency Management Professionals.
Activities that support Augmented Reality will be very different when this technology is applied. Augmented Reality (AR) is superimposing generated information and overlaying it across the users field of vision – forming a mixed view of what we see naturally and computer generated data. Training is one activity where this technology could have a huge impact. As any type of data can potentially be overlaid onto a user’s field of vision through wearable transparent screens (glasses) superimposing a fire onto an ordinary item will certainly make extinguisher training more realistic. On top of that, super imposing information about how to use an extinguisher, or the correct type of extinguisher for a fire would make a big difference in certain situations. Using AR while maintaining a machine has potential as well, with assembly and disassembly, maintenance techniques, faults and operation information could be available as an overlay onto the machine in real time.
While standards and legislation currently dictate how emergency evacuation signage is displayed, the obvious limitation is that this signage is static and does not reflect the current situation, an AR overlay, taking into account what ever the situation is would determine the optimum evacuation route with directions in real time. An overlay would certainly help Wardens locating people in a facility during an evacuation, and in the case of an injury having access to medical support could be a life saver.
We are already seeing the impact of Artificial Intelligence, or the ability to ingest large amounts of data and provide a sensible finding, is having on the agriculture industry. Precision farming, e.g. only spraying weeds and not the whole paddock, is already seeing farm management solutions incorporate drones alongside tractors and improve efficiency. Applying data analysis techniques to predict the path of a bushfire or flood, with a high degree of confidence, will no doubt save lives.
These types of technologies are still in their infancy, and while it is exciting to imagine where we will be with tech in 5 or 10 years the integration of these technologies, the ones that exist and the ones being developed, will take time as they will need to be robust and trusted before they are taken into the field. Patience is a virtue.
What do you think about the future of technology in relation to emergency management? We want to hear from you! Drop us a message and share your thoughts!