Welcome to the first posting of our new blog dedicated to the humanitarian aid community. This blog will be updated every two months with discussions on how humanitarian aid operations can benefit from the latest innovations in smart technology. It is designed to complement our newsletter, Aid Connect, where you can find out more about new solutions and events, get to know our partners better and also interact with experts at Motorola Solutions.
Smart Solutions for Connected Humanitarian Aid Operations
I have just returned from an inspiring workshop organised by NOMAD in Amman, Jordan, where over 120 connected aid workers shared their ideas and learnings in the area of humanitarian data collection and management. These interactions and exchanges reinforced how technology can play a crucial role in emergency aid management, by providing the capability to capture, store and analyse data to ascertain the impact of disasters and improve planning for future events. As new solutions for emergency aid management are developed, their successful integration must be based on an understanding of the unique characteristics of the communities that aid agencies need to protect. They also need to cater for the varied needs of different humanitarian aid organisations. You can find a copy of my "Connectivity and Data Collection Solutions" presentation from this NOMAD workshop here.
How can technology enhance emergency aid management?
When a natural disaster strikes, aid response teams face a number of challenges in delivering emergency services. Perhaps one of the greatest challenges is: how to establish reliable communication quickly - especially when conventional networks have been damaged. Having access to secure, instant voice and data communications is vital for co-ordinating responses between different agencies; allocating resources; ensuring the protection of aid workers in dangerous situations and managing events from the onset of disaster, through to the recovery stages and rebuilding infrastructure.
Different agencies have different communication needs – be it alerting hospitals to scale up rapidly, helping search and rescue teams to pinpoint the location of victims or distributing aid. Technology underpins many of these operations and can greatly enhance emergency aid management. For example, drones equipped with Wi-Fi can stream real-time images that help aid workers to ascertain the scale of a disaster and gain access to areas which would be too dangerous to do so in person. Using GPS to track and monitor the movements of responders can optimise the allocation of resources and provide greater protection for workers in hazardous environments. But technology must be more than just a tool: to be truly effective and avoid distracting aid workers from the mission at hand, it must be seamless.
Towards integrated communications
At times of crisis, information pours in from a multitude of sources – be they call centres, social media sites, sensors or video streams. This data needs to be filtered, analysed and passed on to response teams in real time, to support intelligence in the field and help them make informed decisions as events unfold.
A solution such as Premier One Records can simplify the capture, storage and retention of operational and procedural data within a centralised repository. It links together multimedia data about people, property and places to help agencies determine the best response. This data can also be integrated with a cloud-based application such as CommandCentral Analytics which offers a variety of visually-intuitive formats that make it easier to review data and analytics, identify emerging trends and gain deeper insight into key areas. Using a smartphone or tablet, incidents can be securely, accurately and consistently documented and this information can be transmitted directly into the PremierOne Records system via a mobile app called SceneDoc. These technologies facilitate the gathering of information directly from a scene and allow workers to share intelligence with their colleagues in near real-time.
For crisis situations where an aid worker needs to remain completely focused on the events at hand, the combination of a body-worn video camera, radio speaker and microphone into a single device that’s connected to a cloud-based storage solution can seamlessly provide feedback regarding the responder’s experience at the scene of a crisis. The ability to monitor an individual’s stress levels, capture what they are seeing and process this data for reviewing and sharing footage can significantly improve response and safety.
Proactive management of mobile devices
From a logistical perspective, it can be time-consuming trying to keep track of radios and handheld devices, especially when they’re shared and reallocated among different humanitarian teams and across multiple locations. Infor’s asset tracking software is accessible via a mobile app that makes it possible to view radio performance, schedule repairs proactively and optimise the lifecycle of essential communications equipment.
Supporting critical tasks
These are just a few examples of how technological innovations can support critical tasks and be integrated into humanitarian aid operations. Motorola Solutions is committed to working with agencies managing disaster recovery and major incident response around the world, to develop devices, applications and communication networks that will perform reliably in extreme circumstances and help to prepare organisations to minimise the impact of future threats. For more information, have a look at our Smart Public Safety Solutions or register for our series of Smart Public Safety Solution webinars.
In our next blog, we’ll examine how smart technology can be used to predict crisis situations and help to avert catastrophes.
Director: United Nations & International Accounts, Motorola Solutions