ARCHIVED - You Have Emergency E-Mail
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August 06, 2006— Ottawa, Ontario
In a crisis, a new NRC technology will get the right information to the right people when they need it most.
NRC Business Case Challenge 2006
|Beating a Monster of the Mind|
|Hydrogen on Demand|
|You Have Emergency E-Mail|
|Transforming Technology into New Business Opportunities|
Social networking software has made headlines for powering uses from peer-to-peer file swapping to online dating. But Steve Marsh thinks that this powerful social software concept has yet to meet its ideal match. And the National Research Council scientist and entrepreneur is acting as matchmaker to bring it to those who could one day need it most — emergency managers.
He's leading the effort to develop and commercialise EM-FLOW, an emergency management software tool that will give decision makers the crucial situational awareness they need, exactly when they need it.
|EM-FLOW, an emergency management software tool that will give decision makers the crucial situational awareness they need, exactly when they need it.|
"One of the biggest problems in any large-scale emergency situation is information overflow. I think that the only way that you're going to jump this hurdle is to have a software system to rank, filter and distribute information in a socially intelligent manner. EM-FLOW will do this," says Dr. Steve Marsh, a research scientist with NRC's Institute for Information Technology (NRC-IIT).
This software solution recently impressed a distinguished panel of business and scientific leaders as part of the spin-off company category in the 2006 NRC Business Case Challenge.
At its heart, EM-FLOW is based on an intelligent software agent. This is a software tool that a user programs to filter, rank and distribute incoming information. EM-FLOW draws on well-known software concepts — such as those used in spam filters and automatic e-mail forwarding — to create a sophisticated networking system. It's ideal for any large, geographically distributed, information-based organizations, such as banks or multinational manufacturers. But where Dr. March believes EM-FLOW's strengths will really shine is with provincial, state or federal emergency measures organizations.
|EM-FLOW, an emergency management software tool that could also be ideal for police and security intelligence applications.|
With EM-FLOW, each user will be able to customize his automatic information exchange preferences. For example, incoming e-mail messages will be ranked using a variety of tools, including semantic analysis (the use of key word identification), and through the software's analysis of the priority and rate at which messages are moving through the entire network. Users can also set interest priorities for themselves (for example "flooding"), or even information that they think is critical to a colleague. Based on these interests, EM-FLOW will then automatically bring the user the relevant matched information flowing through the network.
The EM-FLOW interface will resemble existing e-mail or Web pages. While this familiar interface will help make the system highly user-friendly, under the intense pressure of emergency decision making what will really distinguish EM-FLOW is that users are familiar with the software. It's designed for day-to-day use, helping users navigate both everyday and emergency communication.
"When an emergency does happen, you'll be sitting in front of the same tool that you use on a daily basis. You don't have to relearn it or remember how it works," says Dr. Marsh.
He notes that the technology is also ideal for police and security intelligence applications. The system can be applied in either open or highly secure proprietary networks.
The EM-FLOW team is presently developing a business plan for the commercialization of the technology. It envisions a working prototype of the software in 2007, followed by the spin-off of an independent start-up company to take EM-FLOW to market.
EM-FLOW will be unique — the first agent-based tool for emergency management. The EM-FLOW team estimates there's a multi-billion dollar market for an emergency management social software solution among North American governments from the municipal to federal level. After the emergency response debacle in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, it's a market that's acutely sensitised to the potential for information and decision-making collapse in an emergency situation. The EM-FLOW team is working with Public Safety New Brunswick as a possible test site for a prototype version.
|Dr. Stephen Marsh|
Says Dr. Marsh, "Right now I think that it's the right time and the right place and there's a real need."
The technology draws on the EM-FLOW team's expertise in artificial intelligence, agent technologies and human-computer interaction. Dr. Marsh developed the world's first computational formulation for assessing trust, a critical component in understanding social interaction and information exchange. The EM-FLOW team includes Professor Ali Ghorbani, an expert in machine learning and Director of the Intelligent and Adaptive Systems Laboratory at the University of New Brunswick.
Enquiries: Media relations
National Research Council of Canada
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