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How the Internet of Things Leads to Better, Faster Crisis Communication


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The Internet of Things promises to provide a wide range of futuristic benefits, but what is often overlooked is how deeply IoT sensors and data analytics already impact how we live and how we conduct business. This is especially true of crisis communications. Here, IoT has far-reaching implications, both in the present and in the future.

This whitepaper explores how IoT sensors powerfully expand the capabilities of networked crisis communication solutions. It also discusses typical scenarios for incorporating IoT sensor data within emergency preparedness scenarios. Finally, it demonstrates why AtHoc is particularly well suited for using IoT data to deliver faster, more accurate situational awareness in an intuitive manner, without inundating employees with excess data or forcing emergency management staff to become data scientists.

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How the Internet of Things Leads to Better, Faster Crisis Communication

  1. 1. How the Internet of Things Leads to Better, Faster Crisis Communication Accelerating Emergency Responses and Enhancing Situational Awareness White Paper
  2. 2. Executive Summary 3 An Introduction - Or Reintroduction - to the Internet of Things 3 Networks Crisis Communication Take Advantage of Both Models 4 Extremely Remote Environments 4 Industrial Operations 4 Mobile Monitoring and Tracking 5 Avoiding Data Overload 7 Real-World Examples 8 Port of Houston Authority 8 BlackBerry Radar 8 Secure, Data-Driven Design Meets Streamlined IoT Extensibility 9 Conclusion 10 About AtHoc 10 Table of Contents 2 White Paper
  3. 3. The Internet of Things promises to provide a wide range of futuristic benefits, but what is often overlooked is how deeply IoT sensors and data analytics already impact how we live and how we conduct business. This is especially true of crisis communications. Here, IoT has far-reaching implications, both in the present and in the future. Networked crisis communication as practiced by AtHoc is data-driven. Predefined templates for addressing specific scenarios are the key for automating emergency responses. Triggers can be driven by IoT sensors just as easily as by an individual pulling a fire alarm or field personnel reporting an active shooter, and inexpensive, automated transfer of data enables organizations to recognize dangerous situations sooner. This is especially useful in remote or inaccessible areas, or when it is too risky to send human beings to provide eyes-on situational awareness. This whitepaper explores how IoT sensors powerfully expand the capabilities of networked crisis communication solutions. It also discusses typical scenarios for incorporating IoT sensor data within emergency preparedness scenarios. Finally, it demonstrates why AtHoc is particularly well suited for using IoT data to deliver faster, more accurate situational awareness in an intuitive manner, without inundating employees with excess data or forcing emergency management staff to become data scientists. According to Wikipedia, the Internet of Things (IoT) is: . . . the network of physical devices, vehicles, buildings and other items— embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity that enable these objects to collect and exchange data . . .The IoT allows objects to be sensed and controlled remotely across existing network infrastructure, creating opportunities for more direct integration of the physical world into computer-based systems, and resulting in improved efficiency, accuracy, and economic benefit … Experts estimate that the IoT will consist of almost 50 billion objects by 2020. The costs of internet connectivity have plummeted, as has the physical size needed for cellular, NFC, WiFi, or other wireless radios and receivers. Almost anything that collects digital data can now become a sensor providing information via the Internet – and almost everything that can be connected to the internet is being connected to the internet. Some of these applications are trivial, such as refrigerators that sense when the household is short on milk and alert homeowners to pick up a fresh carton on the way home. Others are already deeply embedded into everyday life, such as the Smart Cities initiatives that use IoT data to improve quality of life and operational efficiencies in major metropolitan areas around the world. There are two basic variants of IoT at work today. The first is when data is collected and sent automatically to central repositories for analysis, as a prelude to being interpreted and used by people. This is what most think of when they hear the term “Internet of Things.” The depth and breadth of data provided by IoT sensors help uncover insights and patterns that cannot normally be observed, leading to faster, better, strategic and operational decisions. Potentially risky situations can be recognized sooner, with corrective action taking place before the situation spins out of control. An Introduction – Or Reintroduction – to the Internet of Things Executive Summary 3 White Paper
  4. 4. AtHoc’s data-driven, template-based design means that input from IoT sensors can give emergency managers deeper situational awareness sooner, leading to more appropriate alerts and responses, along with automated triggers that save critical moments when human analysis is not necessary. These IoT inputs also allow AtHoc to be deployed across a number of unexpected environments. Two practical scenarios follow, although the possibilities for AtHoc’s value when paired with IoT is limited only by cost or imagination. Extremely Remote Environments IoT sensors are excellent, low-cost detectors for fire, smoke, acoustic, or seismic activity in backcountry areas, especially when disasters in these remote locations carry the potential to impact populated areas. Data from IoT sensors that meets specific criteria can deliver accurate advance notice of what is likely to be a fire, earthquake, volcano or flash flood. AtHoc can automatically issue the appropriate alerts when these criteria are met. This automated system is especially important when it takes a long time to get human confirmation of a situation, but early intervention can minimize the threat. A backcountry area near a suburban population center during the summer, when conditions are favorable for wildfires, is one example. IoT sensors can measure humidity in the air and soil, as well as rapidly changing barometric pressure which together indicate a situation where the forest is at high risk for wildfire and a thunderstorm is imminent. Other sensors that track heat and smoke can provide confirmation that a fire has begun. This automatically collected information can trigger an AtHoc alert for a wildfire scenario, contacting the governmental agencies responsible for fighting wildfires in that area. Responders can be placed on call and equipment can be mustered and prepared while staff members or drones fly over the affected area to confirm the crisis. Since responders know about the situation sooner, they have the ability to react before the wildfire ranges out of control. By containing the situation to a relatively small event, the threat to people and property is minimized. Industrial Operations Another application for AtHoc and IoT sensors is within inaccessible areas of industrial facilities. A large, complex plant has many sectors that are conducive to dangerous equipment failures, or locations that are dangerous for human beings to inspect. Often, the organizations that manage them operate across massive areas with extended perimeters that are difficult to observe physically on a 24/7 basis. An excellent example is the array of sensors being built into cars which detail operating conditions, tire pressure, excessive speed, other cars in blind spots, lane drift, following distance and other elements that make safe driving easier to achieve. The other mode of IoT is machine-to-machine (M2M). In this form, the data provided by IoT sensors generates autonomous action by other internet-connected machines or devices. These actions may be monitored by staff, but specific processes and corrective measures are generally automatic in nature. The inputs from one form of automated system inform and direct actions taken by other machines. For example, a simultaneous spike in operating temperature and energy use within a key piece of machinery may trigger an automatic shutdown inside that part of a manufacturing plant in advance of what is almost certainly an imminent and damaging component failure. Neither condition alone warrants a shutdown, but the combination indicates a serious problem and initiates an automated reaction. 4 White Paper Networked Crisis Communication Takes Advantage of Both Models
  5. 5. Consider an oil refinery. This extremely complex infrastructure is impossible to inspect with 100% coverage on a daily basis. Likewise, it is extremely difficult to ensure that access to the plant or to specific areas within it is limited solely to authorized personnel at all times. AtHoc can provide coverage and alerting that is impossible to achieve solely with human staff, monitoring conditions that indicate an imminent threat, such as: • Perimeter intrusion • Unauthorized presence in dangerous or prohibited sections of the plant • Unexpected variations in temperature • Radical spikes or drops in energy usage • Noises that indicate explosions or structural collapse As with the previous example, IoT sensors feed information to the networked crisis communication solution, triggering an automated response. Faster recognition of the threat helps send staff to investigate intrusions as they occur, or evacuate staff to safety significantly sooner. Responders can be alerted and organized faster, and the situation is more likely to be contained. These alerts also give emergency managers the ability to turn off equipment earlier, ideally before infrastructure is damaged or dangerous chemicals are released. Surrounding areas outside the facility can be placed on alert, granting more time for orderly evacuations, enforced shelter-in-place commands, and clearance of roadways to allow external responders to access the facility. The IoT sensors also help AtHoc and emergency managers monitor active crises when heat, chemical spills, toxic clouds, or damaged infrastructure make it too dangerous to send human beings into that environment. They can then call in the appropriate lower-risk response, such as water cannons or airborne fire suppression rather than fire personnel with hoses. Response can begin immediately based on local situational awareness, with headquarters brought into the loop as quickly as possible. The time saved translates directly into protection of people and property from harm as well as faster restoration of operations. Once again, automated intelligence delivered at the speed of the internet provides critical and accurate situational awareness that increases the chances of minimizing the threat. Mobile Monitoring and Tracking Mobile situations, such as trucking, rail transport, and water-borne shipping are another ideal application for AtHoc and IoT sensors. On-board sensors can monitor the precise condition of hazardous materials being transported, providing real-time monitoring of conditions that might indicate: • Wrecks or derailment • Cargo or transport moving outside authorized geographical areas • Improper usage of vehicles and equipment • Theft or tampering of cargo Other situations are less intuitive but equally important. Consider a commuter train entering an area in which an evacuation or shelter-in- place order is in effect, a situation which actually happened in California in 2003. The rail operator had no way to inform two passenger trains that the area had been declared off-limits because of a suspected toxic cloud. Passengers were stranded inside the affected area, with no way to exit. A networked crisis communication system using IoT technology allows the location of each train to be monitored in real time. When an emergency situation is declared, the rail operator can be alerted immediately as to which trains are at risk of entering the evacuated area. 5 White Paper
  6. 6. (IoT is) the network of physical devices, vehicles, buildings and other items—embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity that enable these objects to collect and exchange data. Source: Wikipedia
  7. 7. The networked crisis communication system could reach each train automatically, informing conductors to stay clear of the area. Track managers would also be alerted, so that they could guide at-risk trains and passengers to a safe location. Expanding on the above, a similar scenario involves alerts based on IoT sensors that indicate that there is a problem with an item being shipped. Sensors could provide advance notice of a derailment – high speed, followed by unusual lateral motion, loud noise, and stillness are sure warning signs. Heat and smoke sensors would provide additional evidence, enabling AtHoc to issue an alert indicating potential fire, as well. If that train is known to contain hazardous chemicals, that information would be part of the AtHoc alert, enabling responders to gauge their actions accordingly, and order evacuations to protect civilians in the area. As with the previous situations, the IoT sensors provide the data that enables AtHoc to issue alerts for specific scenarios sooner, even in advance of calls from the field. This combination enables responders to gather critical information rapidly, without requiring human intervention. The result is dramatically enhanced situational awareness, and a faster, more appropriate response. 7 White Paper What do emergency managers do with all that IoT data? That same question has been asked of any advanced data analytics methodology, from “data mining” to “business intelligence” to “Big Data.” A massive increase in data volume is only a net gain if it helps an organization make better, faster decisions. It leads to wasted time and effort when it bogs down normal operations instead. One of the key IoT advantages of AtHoc is that the complexity of gathering, interpreting, and using the data is hidden from emergency management staff. The application of automated triggers becomes part of the normal workflow for creating emergency preparedness plans and crisis communication alert templates. AtHoc receives the data from the sensors, and acts according to the triggers programmed into the system. The same criteria that must be entered for human-centric confirmation of an event also applies to situations defined solely by data, including: • What are the conditions surrounding this event that identify it as an emergency? • What sensors do we have in place to send us data? • What are the data conditions that indicate that this emergency is taking place? • Do we have eyes-on confirmation from the field? • Have the conditions been met to issue this alert and response plan? Emergency managers already prepare this information as part of their crisis planning – and as part of the initial setup and ongoing evolution of their networked crisis communication systems. IoT sensors, because they are providing digital information via wired and wireless networks, simply provide another means to recognize that an emergency has occurred, often well before human beings are aware that a dangerous situation is imminent. In short, AtHoc leverages the advantages that come from billions of IoT sensors without forcing emergency managers to become data scientists, or customers to have to make massive investments in advanced analytics in able to use IoT sensors for emergency alerting and communications. Avoiding Data Overload
  8. 8. 8 White Paper Port of Houston Authority The Port of Houston Authority uses AtHoc to manage emergency alerts and crisis communication across the breadth of its region of responsibility, ranging from the Galveston-Houston shipping channel into the City of Houston itself. Multiple oil, gas, chemical, and steel plants either use port facilities, or operate on its periphery. The Authority uses AtHoc to coordinate these organizations, as well as surrounding communities, into an integrated emergency response system. One of the key elements in the AtHoc solution is the result of a joint project with eMerge Systems. eMerge’s technology automatically tabulates the hazardous materials in use at the industrial facilities operating within the purview of the Port of Houston Authority. When a threatening situation occurs, the quantities and types of dangerous chemicals involved in the affected areas of a facility are linked directly from eMerge Systems’ deployment to the AtHoc networked crisis communication solution. This information is used to automatically escalate – or de-escalate – the situation, based on the severity. For example, a small spill of a volatile compound now generates a localized, minimal response, rather than forcing closure across a broad area of the plant. On the other hand, an explosion that releases a toxic cloud causes a much higher level of alert, across a much broader geographical area. This process happens automatically. As a result, response can begin immediately, and no time is lost trying to determine if a hazardous substance is involved, identifying that substance, and determining the threat it poses. Personnel and responders are no longer at risk due to insufficient information – if a hazard exists, they can be notified immediately. BlackBerry Radar BlackBerry Radar is an advanced IoT trucking solution, which embeds sensors in objects being shipped, shipping containers, and the trucks themselves. These sensors constantly monitor temperature, vibration, humidity, speed, location, and other key indicators to deliver real-time insight into: Where cargo is at any given point in time • Early recognition of potential theft (outside expected location; door opened when supposed to be closed) • Early warning of shipping delays • Potential mistreatment of valuable cargo (very important to cargo owners & insurers) Current operating condition of cargo • Possible crashes, derailments, or other worst- case scenarios • Emergency alerts based on dangerous events or operating conditions • Damage to the cargo necessitating special handling Real-World Examples
  9. 9. Location and handling of the transportation vehicles themselves • Located where they are expected to be, especially off-hours (geofences) • Documentation of safe driving to protect against liability issues and to minimize insurance expenses • Data to help all drivers improve their safety, performance, and efficiency This data and its automated analytics, presented in a user-friendly interface that can be accessed by authorized desktop or mobile web browsers, delivers material benefits for BlackBerry transportation customers, including: • On-time delivery/shipper accountability • Reduced operational costs • Reduced insurance costs (proper handling of cargo; proper operation of transportation) • Reduced opportunity for theft/faster recognition of theft (increases likelihood of recovery) AtHoc combines with Blackberry Radar to deliver real-time alerts when conditions indicate a serious deviation from expected norms, such as a possible wreck or suspected theft. This combination of IoT and networked crisis communication gives trucking companies the ability to intervene sooner, which helps maximize revenue and minimize operational loss. These advantages go farther than conditions inside a truck or shipping container. As with the rail transportation cited above, AtHoc alerts can reach shipping companies to inform them of dangerous conditions before valuable cargo enters the area and is put at risk. One scenario might be when a toxic cloud leads to evacuation or shelter-in-place orders. AtHoc can connect with industrial facilities, shipping companies, transportation providers, and other concerned parties to ensure that valuable or hazardous materials or operations are properly secured, and that people do not travel into the affected areas. 9 White Paper Security is one of the most significant concerns with any internet-based, data-driven technology. AtHoc is built to exceedingly strict security standards, including information it receives from outside sources such as IoT sensors. It exceeds SSAE-16 certification, and is one of the few vendors providing a hosted crisis communication service certified as compliant with government and DoD security mandates via NIST SP 800-53 Rev4 at FIPS 199 moderate classification. AtHoc is also the only supplier of personnel accountability and emergency mass communication solutions to receive the Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technology (SAFETY) Act Designation, and is recognized by DHS as a Qualified Anti-Terrorism Technology (QATT) based on its reliable software and infrastructure. By design, AtHoc synchronizes effectively with other secured systems, such as Radar’s end-to- end encryption, to ensure that the IoT data stream is protected against attack or misuse. The same extensibility that enables AtHoc to work with almost any communications modality, such as police or marine radios, also ensures that AtHoc can establish secured data transmission with other software solutions, either via API or via custom integration. AtHoc’s secure operating model extends to how users access its capabilities, too, and it can function as a hosted, Cloud, or hybrid solution. As a result, alerts and communications continue to take place even if headquarters or centralized operations centers are unavailable, using any authorized web browser running on a desktop, laptop, smartphone, or tablet. This ability to enable field-driven response gives staff the flexibility to act on rapidly changing conditions that demand an extremely urgent response, without the delays inherent in waiting for orders. The availability of data from IoT sensors accelerates this functionality, making the combination of AtHoc and IoT sensors a powerful combination for smarter, faster response. Secure, Data-Driven Design Meets Streamlined IoT Extensibility
  10. 10. 10 White Paper Networked crisis communication works best when emergency managers receive fast, accurate information, either immediately before or at the onset of a serious event. IoT sensors provide this type of cheap, ubiquitous data, whether across an industrial facility or in remote backcountry areas. The combination of AtHoc with these sensors provides insight and intelligence where human beings rarely visit, or where it is dangerous for people to be present. That, combined with automated emergency alerting scenarios, accelerates response to urgent situations and significantly improves situational awareness. Based on predefined templates, AtHoc uses IoT data to determine whether to trigger an alerting scenario and whether the situation requires human intervention. AtHoc’s embracing of IoT capabilities represents the next step in emergency response, one in which the system helps emergency managers focus more on resolving the situation at hand, and less on seeking data that shows them what is happening when the crisis hits. The ability to deliver more comprehensive information sooner saves critical minutes, protecting both people and property. The IoT is the future of emergency preparedness and response, and AtHoc is already there to support your organization’s adoption of these essential tools. For more information on how AtHoc and the Internet of Things can enhance emergency communication infrastructure, please visit the AtHoc website, or request a free demonstration of AtHoc’s advanced automation capabilities. Tel: +1-650-685-3000 Conclusion AtHoc, a division of BlackBerry Limited, is the pioneer and recognized leader in networked crisis communication, protecting millions of people and thousands of organizations around the world. AtHoc provides a seamless and reliable exchange of critical information among organizations, their people, devices, and external entities. A trusted partner to the world’s most demanding customers, AtHoc is the leading provider to the U.S. Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, and safeguards numerous other government agencies and leading commercial enterprises. Headquartered in Silicon Valley, the company operates around the globe. For more information about AtHoc, please visit About AtHoc ©2016 BlackBerry Limited. All rights reserved. Trademarks, including but not limited to BLACKBERRY, EMBLEM Design, BBM and BES are the trademarks or registered trademarks of BlackBerry Limited and the exclusive rights to such trademarks are expressly reserved. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Content: 2016-16-Aug-BB-IoTWP-0920