It seems almost every day another headline pronounces another deadly disaster — earthquakes, avalanches, shootings. Because we are now connected more than ever, with anyone capable of being a citizen journalist at any given time, we get information in a near real-time news cycle.
However, accurate, trustworthy information about emergency events can still be frustratingly hard — particularly to those in the middle of them.
Too often, information is either false or misleading, which only makes the situation worse. Recently, Hawaiians panicked for nearly an hour after a false emergency alert of an impending missile attack was sent across the state. And reports of mass assaults by refugees in Frankfurt, Germany, went viral, even though they never really happened.
It’s something that Unified Inbox Pte. Ltd. (UIB), an SAP partner based in Singapore, wants to fix.
Eliminating Communication Breakdowns
The ability to communicate more effectively, more accurately and more quickly in a crisis could save lives, reduce injuries and significantly decrease damage caused during crisis scenarios, according to Ken Herron, UIB’s chief marketing officer.
To help, UIB has developed SHOUT, an intelligent emergency broadcast messaging system designed to send information to people using any device — even if they don’t have a specific app installed.
SHOUT, which won an SAP HANA Innovation Award last year, utilizes UIB’s proprietary UnificationEngine™ intelligent IoT messaging technology and lets organizations instantly broadcast information to more than 25 global communications channels, including Facebook, Twitter and other social media and messaging apps.
“We talk about [the false missile alarm in] Hawaii on a near-daily basis. If they had our system, that false alarm never would have gone out and a correction would have reached everyone instantly,” Herron said. “While the original message never should have happened, it was an equally grave problem that there was no ability to quickly send out a ‘false alarm’ message.”
Shared Information, Better Decisions
SHOUT automates and accelerates communications approval processes, assuring that messages get out quickly and correctly, eliminating mistakes and frustratingly slow response times. UIB is ready to get its own message out: technology can and should be a positive, powerful tool for communication in crisis and emergency situations, Herron said.
The ability to share important information in a more effective manner is important to both civilians as well as governments, businesses and other organizations, Herron said.
“Imagine after a hurricane being able to say here’s where water is, here’s where supplies are. Communication after the fact is just as important as before the fact,” Herron said. “Getting the right information at the right time to the right people can make a difference, especially at a local community level.”
More than natural disaster notifications, organizations should be sharing public health tips. In Cape Town, South Africa, water conservation reminders to residents might alleviate concerns about their current shortage, Herron said. Even reminders to get a flu shot during influenza season could improve school attendance, Herron said.
Making Messaging More Meaningful
UIB has also developed a two-way communications system by leveraging the power of SAP Cloud Platform, with machine learning and text analysis, Herron said.
The two-way communications platform not only allows emergency responders to communicate with potential victims and vice-versa, it can filter out low-priority messages and flag those that may require immediate attention. For example, messages such as “Wow, was that an earthquake?” can be filtered out so responders can more quickly react to messages like “Help, I’m trapped in my cellar!”
Two-way communications also allow individuals or groups to dispel inaccurate and false information communicated either accidentally or deliberately. The falsely-reported assaults in Cologne, Germany, shine a light on the need for improved communications capabilities, Herron said.
“If the city had been able to go on the most popular channels to communicate the truth in a rapid and complete fashion, it would have stopped much of the ugliness a lot sooner,” he said. “Consistent, accurate communication should be a best practice in any emergency. Whenever false rumors go viral, you need a channel to get it right. The truth matters.”
UIB was founded in 2010 with the goal to solve information overload by developing a means to aggregate multiple communications channels into a single point. As the company’s technology has evolved, so has its purpose.
“We have the ability to genuinely impact people’s lives on a global basis,” said Herron. “That’s not something everybody gets to do for their work. We’re very excited and we’re very happy to have SAP as a partner.”