The Next Big Thing in Disaster Response?

On May 25, CiviGuard will launch what it’s calls the next big thing in disaster response.

In less than a week CiviGuard will launch the first city government partnership with Manor, Texas – just east of Austin – enabling the city’s first responders to tap the pervasiveness of smartphones to more effectively send out crucial, actionable information to civilians in crisis situations.

It’s been tested in other areas around the country, and the mobile-based approach is proving the next big step in disaster response.

The CiviGuard platform delivers near real-time information from authorities to civilians by combining the tech of mobile and the web – HTML5, cloud-based infrastructure, multi-touch scenario management and intelligent multi-channel message distribution – into a single offering. It circumvents the need for slow-moving standards bodies by being compliant with the ultimate standard: the web and HTTP.

We got chance to grill CiviGuard on what this could mean for the future of disaster response, here’s what we got:

-Tell me a little bit about your background and the company

I am hard-core technologist at heart with a background in computer science, distributed systems and process automation. I have deployed over 50 technology solutions for Government over the last decade in procurement, legal, education, first responder and healthcare contexts. It has helped me form a balanced view of how Government IT can be done better.

The genesis of CiviGuard traces back to Singularity University, a highly competitive program for future technology leaders sponsored by NASA and Google. Our team projects had one clear mission: positively impact a billion people within a decade. It basically ensured that all four teams tackled massive problems. Our team chose Disaster Response Technologies and then zeroed in on an area we thought was lacking innovation – emergency communications between authorities and civilians. Thus, we formed a company to address this need.

-I see you are based in both NASA-Ames in San Francisco and White Plains, NY. How did that happen?

NASA-Ames in Mountain View, CA is a fascinating facility that remains a hotbed for innovation. Having studied at Singularity University there, it just made sense to continue our relationship with the area and our University was kind enough to arrange some space for us! White Plains has been the central node for all my companies in the last decade, so CiviGuard was a natural extension. Having a presence on both coasts gives us excellent regional coverage, access to phenomenal Silicon Valley talent and close proximity to DC for interaction with Federal agencies.

-You reference O’Reilly’s “Government as Platform” essay. What inspires you most about it?

The inspiration for us at CiviGuard is the impact it has had already in the way technology, transparency and procurement is being reassessed in the context of Government. Tim’s meme has given rise to an age of experimentation and surprise that has made big Government stop, think and retrace its steps. The solution age, as Mark Drapeau would put it, is the most compelling of the three. It is the age CiviGuard firmly belongs in and I hope many others follow us.

-It seems there is a number of Gov 2.0 companies in the mobile space such as SeeClickFix and FreedomSpeaks. What makes mobile so exciting for government?

Desktop to Mobile is the chasm every large software company on earth is trying to cross. Some are flagrantly disrupting, some are being respectful to a past that has been good to them – but nobody is sitting around. Couple the technological enthusiasm with the obvious up-ticks in efficiency, transparency and pervasiveness mobile delivers and you have the perfect conduit for delivering Gov 2.0 solutions to the world.

-There’s a lot in Gov 2.0 around the Crisis space starting with Crisis Commons. Why do you think there is so much innovation in the space?

Crisis Commons is a wonderful initiative supported by a number of driven people wanting to make a positive social impact using participative and crowd-sourced technologies. We think Crisis Commons is a more interesting study of how process innovation yields greater social impact; it really isn’t about the technology with them. We participated in our first CrisisCamp (CrisisCamp Silicon Valley) which was excellent! We look forward to more in the future!

-I’m an emergency manager – what’s your 30 second pitch on why Civiguard is needed?

CiviGuard is the only way an emergency manager can share trusted location-specific information and guidance in near real-time with his or her constituency. This is markedly different from mass notification services which blanket large populations with generic messages that cannot be translated into action. CiviGuard delivers messages faster and more resiliently due to it being based on internet standards versus voice and SMS for other mass notification providers. CiviGuard is also the only platform capable of giving emergency managers near real-time crowd movement feedback to supervise and assist with rapid evacuations.

In summary, CiviGuard “gets people out of danger faster and let’s first responders focus their assistance on the people and assets that need it the most.”

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