THE BLOG
09/17/2014 04:33 pm ET Updated Nov 15, 2014

How Mobile Technology Will Continue Enhancing National Security

Mobile has disrupted every segment of the economy. From entertainment to communication, transportation and healthcare, mobile technology has transformed various traditional business models. Through real time data, and capabilities like GPS and camera access, mobile app developers have been able to provide viable solutions to everyday consumer practices. For instance, Uber successfully simplified the taxi-ridesharing service industry, Airbnb disrupted the hotel economy, and tinder revolutionized modern dating . These apps are just a few examples of how mobile has simplified day-to-day cumbersome processes.

Expectedly, mobile has even started enhancing national security efforts, specifically with natural disasters. For example government infrastructure and civic startups are leveraging mobile technologies in preventing or responding to catastrophic environmental incidents. After Hurricane Sandy, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the White house allegedly turned to crowd-sourced navigation app Waze to gather data and deliver gasoline to locations in need--showcasing just how useful mobile has become in the wake of crises. Compiled here are some ways in which mobile has altered the ways we document, consume, and respond to natural disasters.

Crowdsourcing Information. Informal methods, such as gathering intelligence from the general population, can help increase response times during earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding, or other natural disasters. Crowdsourcing also helps decision makers effectively determine when and where to allocate appropriate resources during a crisis. Various mobile apps and services have already started crowdsourcing for emergency reporting and response.

Here are a few such applications:

• Disaster Assessment and Assistance Dashboard (DAAD). Created by Civic Startup Appalicious, DAAD is a web-based (mobile enabled) application that offers communities a tool for recovery efforts. The app provides a useful dashboard that is meant to be a one-stop shop of information for residents and/or businesses--the dashboard shows a world map, where users can zoom into their town or city and find useful FEMA data sets about road closings, power outages or other data from local government officials. Moreover, DAAD allows citizens to integrate their own data sets that FEMA can utilize during emergencies.
• Google. The multi-national corporation now allows users to contribute information to its crisis map service, which provides information on emergency shelters, gas availability and power outages during natural disasters. Google has also implemented a "Person Finder" to help locate lost citizens and "Public Alerts" which serves as a platform that sends contextual emergency alerts to users.
• American Red Cross. The organization has created a suite of mobile apps tailored to particular kinds of natural disasters, including flooding, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, and housing. The apps send real-time alerts and notifications to users and offer helpful preparation tips.
• uRep. This Android app, which is under development, allows people to crowd source geo-tagged photos of an area. In its current form, the app is centered on power outages, but a paper recently suggested the app could prove to be useful during natural disasters and other emergency situations. Such efforts could help relief agencies get a faster and better read on which areas have been affected by a disaster.

Social Media is reshaping how we respond to natural disasters. Social Media usage on mobile has influenced the ways in which we respond to national crises. Bob Greenberg, an expert on emergency response comments, "The use of social media is a critical part of improving citizen engagement before, during and after a crisis." Furthermore, social media usage on mobile has drastically increased; up 203% in 2013. Such notions suggest social media and mobile have become increasingly intertwined--making mobile devices a critical tool during natural disasters.

Media reporter David Carr says, "that real-time social tools like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have altered the way many of us experience and consume events." It's true--the real time capabilities of mobile devices have given citizen reporting a new level of authenticity and value than ever before. With half of Facebook and Twitter users getting news on these respective social platforms, citizen journalists have become vital resources for breaking news from natural disaster zones. Even Craig Fugate, the Administrator of FEMA continuously uses Twitter and Facebook as part of his information toolkit.

Social Media has previously been used during national disasters. Hurricane Irene was the first event where use of social media was used by a large number of government agencies in preparation for and during the actual event. FEMA, for example, explicitly streamed messages through various social media sites and Twitter hashtags including #FEMA. Furthermore, when Hurricane Sandy hit New York Twitter feeds assisted in coordinating shelter, food and other relief efforts for those affected. Accordingly, as social media continues to become more mobile centric, smartphones and popular social media platforms will become increasingly more important tools during natural disaster response and relief efforts.

Wearable Technology Set to Revolutionize Disaster Recovery. So far, there has been little use of wearable technology during natural disaster emergencies. However, as wearable technology continues to get absorbed in our regular lifestyle, it will likely revolutionize the ways in which our country responds to natural disasters.

This emerging tech would inherently free up the hands of emergency first responders, allowing them to complete their tasks more efficiently and fluidly, while simultaneously accessing relevant and pertinent information. For instance, a responder might be able to assist wounded people while receiving intelligence about what is happening in the surrounding area. This streamlined intelligence would likely help on-site citizens make better and more informed decisions. In this use case, the potential for Google Glass, would be particularly helpful in efficiently and visually providing contextual information.

Furthermore, citizens enduring natural disasters could benefit from wearable technology, as they could receive information hands free and while on the move as well. Information might consist of contextual push notifications about which areas to avoid, or receive helpful geographic recommendations about the nearest open shelter or replenished gasoline station. Crowdsourcing might also be integral here as citizens could send images of specific sites via their wearable technology.

Through these examples we have barely scratched the surface; mobile technology, and the general internet of things is ideally positioned to enhance our National Security and become an indispensible part of our eco-system.