When Seconds Save Lives

In 2011, the world has seen first-hand the diversity and enormity of challenges faced in the field of public safety and security. Floods, fires, earthquakes, Tsunamis, terrorist attacks and riots — these are just some of huge and catastrophic impacts we have all watched or experienced this year. Alongside such devastation, loss of life and national turmoil, we have also seen the power of communities coming together to re-build, recover and reflect. Whilst there will always be bad things happening, there are always lessons to be learned and things that can be done better to improve safety and security, which means more people saved, fewer casualties and victims, less damage and accelerated recovery efforts.

Whilst it is not appropriate to comment upon specific situations or tragedies, one of the consistent themes in 2011 is response and the need for greater speed.

Today’s reality is that data, information and intelligence volumes are so huge,  sources so diverse and officials so mobile, that traditional approaches to situational awareness cannot be relied upon. Just think about the ‘London riots’ and the use of social networking to coordinate — in real time — crowd behavior.  Or consider the use of social media to provide real time updates on local flood or fire situations.

I know that response has always been top of the priority list, and agencies have consistently focused upon improving this area. However, in my discussions with officials, customers and industry professionals, I got the message:  they still have not achieved true, real time situational awareness.  Essentially they want to do two things:

1) Deliver real time situational awareness from all relevant cross-agency and social networking sources.

2) Deliver this to the officials, on the move, through their devices of choice with location relevant services.

In recent months, I have listened to many customers regarding the area of accelerated response through real time situational awareness, and I am convinced that in-memory technology can be a game changing technology for greater public safety and security.  Processing and analyzing data in main memory (as opposed to a relational database) means a quantum leap in terms of speed or, in public safety and security jargon, real time situational awareness.  Thus, it will enable agencies, officials and citizens to gain real time, actionable intelligence through their device of choice, liberating  them to better use their expertise, skills, bravery and professionalism to achieve their mission.

Following are some examples around real pain points and situations faced that has helped our team to better contextualize in-memory technology and the game changing role it could play in supporting safety and security officials.  These examples are not being sensationalist or playing to an audience! They have happened or are happening every day somewhere in the world and it is public safety and security agencies that are facing the tough choices and significant challenges in addressing these threats.

It is late afternoon. For 24 hours, public safety agencies have been tackling major forest fires. Due to a searing heat wave, the wind changes unexpectedly, driving the path of the bush fire towards a rural community — and the brave fire fighters who are suddenly put in clear and present danger. If a real time information picture can be made available immediately to the community and firefighters – saving them vital seconds, they can navigate to safety……

Sally is a 10-year-old child  playing in the garden outside her home.  While no one is watching,  a man in a white van grabs her and speeds off in his vehicle. Fortunately, Sally screams and is heard by a neighbor who catches the license plate and phones 911. The 911 agent creates the incident, dispatches patrols and shares this with the fusion centers. The electronic license plate reader sees the vehicle. Because the agencies have real time situational awareness, there is no latency or delay in analysis. Those vital seconds between incident, license recognition and police response means they stop the van and save the child………

Cyber terrorists attack the city’s critical infrastructure, bringing down the power grid and mass transportation systems with a SCADA attack. Their intention is to use malware to force power generation and transportation infrastructure failure. The phone network is still operational. Being able to analyze the immense range of incidents and alerts being generated, in real time, then activating the cyber emergency response could mean railway officials and utility officials have additional vital seconds and minutes to shut down operations and avoid a catastrophe…….

John is working in his backyard, chopping logs for the winter fires when he feels extreme pain in his left arm. His heart monitor is alerting and he needs to get immediate medical attention. If the off-duty paramedic, who is 500 metres away, could receive this emergency information in real time on his device with location, incident and person details, there is an excellent chance he could save John…..

There are many more examples in public safety and security which we have used today; however, the common theme is that the professionalism of those who protect and serve is always what counts in the end.

Once again, people, processes and technology come together. Whilst no single technology can be viewed as a “silver bullet,” the convergence of in memory technology, smart devices and mobility present completely new possibilities for real time situational awareness and accelerated response.

SAP HANA, Sybase Unwired Platform and our business analytics and technology solutions providea unique combination of capability that can process and deliver information in near real time and make it available at the point of need, on the mobile device.

We talk about “Business Value” and “Return on Investment” — how can there be any greater value than saving lives, disrupting terrorist attacks, reducing crime, and removing people from harm’s way in natural disasters?

At SAP, we are passionate about helping agencies, communities and citizens RUN SAFER.  We are committed and invested to public safety and security.

We are helping our customers to run better, run safer.

We are being neither naïve nor sensationalist about public safety and  security. This is the real world where bad things happen. I have worked in this space for approaching 30 years. Whilst you may never win the “public safety and security” war, technologies like SAP HANA can help agencies win more battles.

When seconds save lives, speed matters.  When SAP delivers speed, SAP really matters.

Sean O’Brien is vice president of Public Saftey and Security at SAP AG.