CiviGuard offers governments crisis comms in the cloud

A big part of government 2.0 is examining how the public sector can utilize new technology at a faster rate to enhance and streamline services – especially during times of crisis. CiviGuard, a new company, hopes their offering can provide that support to first responders. CivSource spoke with founders Zubin Wadia and Timothy Coleman about the CiviGuard platform and what it can do during crisis situations.

The CiviGuard platform offers a multi-touch interface to first responders and civilian subscribers that allows crisis commanders to direct civilians to safety and manage overall crisis response. The idea for the platform originated out of the founders work at Singularity University, an interdisciplinary university with the goal of positively impacting one billion people in ten years by finding solutions to society’s complex problems.

The founders seem genuinely focused on this challenge, they underlined the amount of research time spent in developing the platform to ensure that it would stand up in critical situations. Wadia demonstrated the multi-touch platform from the subscribers point of view on his iPhone and from the commanders point of view on a large touch screen, “we used a touch based interface because our research showed that in times of crisis users who can rely on touch have a calmer and faster response than those who have to manage a keyboard and mouse.”

Right now, individual subscribers who sign up for the application on their smartphone will get push notifications, email or SMS messages if they are in an area where a crisis occurs. By launching the application, both users and first responders can get near real-time updates about the status of civilians and crisis response. Additionally, should a subscriber find themselves in need of rescue ahead of one of these notifications or during an event they can notify CiviGuard who will direct first responders to the subscriber. Think of it like OnStar for your pocket. The process also takes into account user privacy by making all location and personal data opt-in and removing that data after a user is reported as safe.

On the command side, first responders can use the touch interface to literally draw out the response area, identify exits, and start moving people. As civilians move out and response teams move in, crisis managers can watch those movements in near real-time on their screen and adjust as needed. The notification function allows managers to notify as many as one million people in two minutes, with location polling updating every 60 seconds.

When asked about the platform’s weight on the telecom network, which is typically overworked in times of crisis Wadia said, “our platform has a very small network footprint on purpose, we want to be able to get through. If our subscribers can’t get the data network, we can use SMS and we can also confirm that the message was delivered.” The platform also uses not one but three cloud services – Rackspace, Amazon and NASA’s Nebula, allowing them to bridge between several data support systems to maintain resiliency during crisis.

Currently, the company is working with federal first responders as well as state agencies and several large cities. Last week, at Gov 2.0 Expo they announced a pilot with public sector technology leader Manor, Texas. They have also done demonstrations for New York City and San Francisco and are actively seeking other cities or governments interested in being part of their pilot phase.

CiviGuard is available as an application for iPhone, iPad, Android and Blackberry with additional mobile releases launching later this year.

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