UAE: Harris Atlas is creating the skeleton of an open access cataloguing system for people to dump photos taken on the ground and at the scene with GPS-enabled cell phones. Meanwhile, companies and government departments can make their own data available to emergency responders and engineers, such as surveillance tapes and floor plans.
Individuals would also have access to the catalogue and map on the internet. Companies and government agencies could adjust the settings to keep sensitive information private.
Abbas Rajabifard, the president of the Global Spatial Data Infrastructure Association, said that more companies are offering information that can be used for disaster relief efforts, and powerful hand-held devices now allow individuals to share more data faster.”The tools to respond, as well as awareness on the societal side to collaborate and share, has changed incredibly and as a result we are seeing multi-source data and integrated accessing coming from all different types of sources and organisations,” said Dr Rajabifard. “It took months after the tsunami to collect the same data that took just days in Haiti, and could take only hours if the technology and facilitation were to improve.”
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, “there were so many different corners of New Orleans where people were, and no way of knowing their location, where resources were or where hospitals were staffed,” said Mark Ingersoll, the senior engineer and systems architect for Harris Corp.
The fact that engineers outside New Orleans could not see an image of the broken levees right away “was devastating to emergency efforts,” he said.
The cataloguing system could be used not only for responding to a wide-scale crisis, but also for smaller events such as fires.
“These technologies are meant to be used to help police and fire departments responding to any type of emergency,” Ingersoll said. “A centralised library like this could hold the information that could save time and save lives.”