Technology has been key to many of my career successes. Researching, testing and sharing technology gems is what I would do even if I did not get paid for it. It is my passion and it is my hobby. Leveraging technology solutions can provide resilience and hyper return on investment.
Tools I mention in this Everbridge for mass notification, BCM, Ring Central for Employee Hotline, SurveyGizmo for instant and programmable surveys, Tableau for Business Intelligence, API’s and Webhooks for sum is greater than the arts integration.
In this fun and visionary post I will first recap some of the technologies we have discussed elsewhere on UltimateBusinessContinuity.com and then suggest some ideas for you to consider to take your program to the next level now and in the future.
Throughout UltimateBusinessContinuity.com we discuss how we can leverage technology to achieve world-class programs and make our lives easier by:
- Implementing the three-critical business resilience ‘pillar’ systems:
- Situational Awareness – to clearly understand our surroundings, risks and opportunities
- Business Continuity Management – to scale our programs and derive real-time insight with minimal effort. Insight that would be impossible to uncover through manual means
- Intelligent Mass Notification – to provide critical two-way multi-modal communication to the right people when they need it
- Implementing an incoming emergency hotline
- Building a business continuity website to share critical information
- Building our own custom apps to share critical information
- Creating fully functional portable eBooks, from any of our plans
- Creating highly portable ‘mini-plans’
- Knowing when to use a spreadsheet versus a database – the right tool for the right job
- Understanding the fundamentals of how a database works
- Using Internet Protocol (IP), satellite phones and push to talk for critical communications, when other channels may not be available
- Identifying potentially disastrous laptop vulnerabilities and mitigation strategies
- Identifying potentially disastrous mobile vulnerabilities and mitigation strategies
- Identifying potentially disastrous network vulnerabilities and mitigation strategies
All of the above is critical to building a solid foundation for your resilience program.
Now, let’s have some fun and travel to the next level…
Visionary software and hardware vendors are already embracing opportunities to provide added value to their products. Systems are gaining the ability to learn, predict, make fast/intelligent decisions and communicate the results to the right people – without human intervention! Interesting and often inexpensive new hardware components are improving our work and personal lives.
Tip – When you speak with vendors about their solutions, always ask about their roadmap to the future. Ask how they currently integrate with other systems and hardware components. Request use-cases of how their current clients are creatively using their products.
Ask about their application programming interface (API). An API is a bridge to other systems and Internet of Things hardware. It is similar to playing with building blocks. You can snap software and hardware components together.
There are limitless combinations of value that can be created by mixing, matching and mashing software, hardware and data. I can think of many multi-million dollar companies that were built on that notion. The only limits – are our imaginations.
Situational awareness, BCM and mass notification tools are aggressively moving toward tighter integration. Some mass notification tools are offering compelling situational awareness solutions and situational awareness tools offer certain mass notification capabilities as part of their product offerings. These two critical pillars can also speak with your BCM tool.
In addition, your incident command app should be able to leverage information from your 3 pillar systems. Maintaining plans and tasks in your BCM system and using it elsewhere will prevent multiple versions of the same data and the significant issues that it creates.
Consider mashing in situational data using API or XML feed to build your own situational awareness tool. One of my favorite situational awareness tools is strong on transportation and supply chain threats. It can dynamically overlay threat ratings on your transportation routes, geo-fencing your commercial vehicles in real-time to alert them to threats.
Listed below are a potpourri of ideas you can use to leverage off-the-shelf technology:
Traffic cameras (cams) – can be your eyes on the ground during a dangerous natural or man-made event. They often provide near real-time situational awareness information on a website that can be valuable to your team’s decision making. I have used local traffic cams on many occasions to view local travel conditions near my locations in many states during blizzards, tornadoes and hurricanes. I even had the occasion to monitor roads in Hawaii as a volcano emitted lava near one of my locations. There are many directories on the Internet that list traffic cams.
Robots – can augment your security and safety teams. These guys take mobilizing the concept of using a camera to identify threats and impacts to a whole new level. Robots can provide cost-effective mobile surveillance and situational awareness during a disruptive event. They can easily be fitted with additional inexpensive off the shelf sensors. In some cases they can be sent to locations too dangerous for people. They have provided great value during and after earthquakes, sniffing out bombs, etc.
Robots can be valuable during non crisis times as well. Imagine doubling or tripling your ability to view threats. Robots can be programmed to patrol hallways, offices, warehouses and factories. They will work 24x7x365 and never complain. I am familiar with robots that can climb over objects and go around them. Industrial and military grade robots are tough. They can take a pounding and happily do their jobs. Prices for industrial robots have decreased dramatically recently.
Drones – I used a drone to film a video for a resilience program kickoff meeting. It wowed 40 attendees as it flew over our locations recording some amazing videos. Drones are being used for security and safety. I recently met with a company that automates the flight path of security drones. The drones can be programmed through a friendly interface to fly specific pre-programmed routes. They can survey multiple locations simultaneously and send video streams that are consolidated in a central command center console.
Drones are also delivering medicine and other critical supplies to areas impacted by natural events, such as earthquakes.
Internet of Things (IoT) sensors are proliferating. Temperature, motion and geo-positioning are a few examples of low cost, off-the-shelf, sensors often costing less than $10. Sensors can be placed in desolate and dangerous areas. They can be coupled with a Raspberry Pi / Arduino low cost microprocessor and a tiny solar panel so there would be no need for an electrical outlet. Coupling sensors, software and communications channels will provide you with critical information anywhere in the world. Use your imagination where you can put these devices.
A great simple use-case would be to monitor humidity in a food or beverage warehouse. These inexpensive sensors can integrate with notification tools to notify the right people when humidity is above a threshold level. This can avoid costly spoilage.
Another interesting sensor application is monitoring conveyor lines for threats, such as anthrax or mechanical breakdowns. Certain sensors can identify packages on a conveyor that emit a dangerous odor or visual anomaly. My favorite mass notification tools can communicate with many IoT devices and automatically send notifications based on custom triggers we create.
The best news is, what I described above does not take complex programming to implement. It is not difficult and it gets easier every day. It is almost like snapping building blocks together.
Physical (hard) panic buttons – I also mention these in questions to ask a mass notification vendor. These are tiny physical devices that you can hold in the palm of your hand and, in the event you are in danger, you can press a button to send an alert. The right panic device coupled with a mass notification tool can be of life-saving value. The location of the device can be shared with public authorities or family.
Satellite technology – I use satellites for communications and tracking assets.
Satellite phones – can be a lifeline when cell towers are not available (which is often the case during a widespread event). You can make and receive voice calls from practically anywhere on earth.
On the lower end of satellite communications there are some really cool ‘ping’ tracking transceivers such as the Iridium RockBlock and Globalstar’s Spot Trace. These are very inexpensive devices that transmit latitude – longitude coordinates off low-orbit satellites. Software programs can then plot the coordinates on a map. I am currently using a Spot Trace to track a 21st Century Message in a Bottle project as it, hopefully, crosses the Atlantic Ocean.
Spot Trace is a 2″ x 3″ device, smaller than a deck of playing cards, which integrates GPS, satellite transceiver and power in a compact casing. It is a one way communication from the device. In my testing the pings can go through wood, plastic and glass. It has difficulty penetrating metal. It is a great solution to monitor the movement of devices. It can be hidden under a truck, car, boat, etc. so they can be tracked in case they are stolen. It stays in sleep mode to conserve battery life and activates when it senses movement. Three AAA batteries can last months. I discuss Spot Trace as it applies to resilience and the bottle project in much more detail in the Ultimate Business Continuity Tips, Techniques and Tools Newsletter.
Iridium Rockblock has the ability to provide two way communication. It can transmit latitude – longitude and additional information such as temperature or salinity readings from the middle of the ocean or outer space. You can also send it instructions from anywhere on earth. It can be coupled with many types of IoT sensors and motors using an Arduino or Rasberry Pi microprocessor for added intelligence. Rockblock is more difficult to set-up than Spot Trace, but in certain use-cases it is the preferred solution. I will be using it in 2018 on an exciting project – not the ocean, but you can probably guess the direction.
Miniature microprocessors – Arduino, Rasberry Pi, etc. – These super fun to ‘play with’ tiny and very inexpensive ($5 – $40) computers can be coupled with sensors, transceivers, motors… almost anything you can imagine. They can be programmed and have great potential for resilience, security and safety applications. I provide some very cool use-cases in more detail in the Ultimate Business Continuity Tips, Techniques and Tools Newsletter.
3D Printing – 3D printers are an incredible step forward. Some of the current use-cases boggle the mind. One example is printing body parts. A prosthetic hand can cost thousands of dollars. Children can quickly outgrow a prosthetic hand as they get older. e-NABLE network, which is a volunteer network, now makes it possible for so many children to have a new prosthetic hand for a fraction of the cost by printing them with 3D printers. If you visit their website and watch a couple of videos I think you will shed some tears of joy.
Many other types of body parts are being 3D printed and have proven critical in emergencies.
If airplane and cars parts can now be 3D printed, why not specialized parts required during a disaster? For the right company or possibly disaster struck city, that could be valuable and perhaps life saving. If a company uses a wide variety of parts it could get very expensive to insure there are adequate supplies of all parts on-hand. If emergency parts could be 3D printed and perhaps customized to unique scenarios, imagine how helpful and economical that could be. I am sure some forward thinking organizations will be using 3D printers for continuity of operations purposes in the near future.
Finder – NASA JPL (I discovered this potentially life saving device on an episode of Chuck Pell’s, Xploration Earth 2050 – one of my favorite technology shows):
In the wreckage of a collapsed textile factory and another building in the Nepalese village of Chautara, four men were rescued, thanks to a NASA technology that was able to find their heartbeats. A small, suitcase-sized device called FINDER helped uncover these survivors — two from each destroyed building — in one of the hardest-hit areas of the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that rattled Nepal. The technology detected the men’s presence even though they were buried under about 10 feet of brick, mud, wood and other debris.
FINDER, which stands for Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response, is a collaboration between NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California and the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate in Washington.
Virtual meeting Room Tools:
Virtual meeting room environments take conference calls and webinars to a whole different level. They provide many benefits, such as reducing travel expenses, while fostering collaboration. Two interesting products are SoCoCo and Second Life. I have tested and used both.
Sococo is a business tool that lays out a realistic office environment with private offices and conference rooms in an online environment. You can have public and private meetings. You can even shut your door to speak with someone privately.
Second Life is a world unto itself. You are represented as an avatar which you can customize. You can meet with your team in custom offices in buildings you own. You can even create the buildings from the ground up! Large companies have purchased choice real estate on Second Life for offices and store-fronts. It even has its own currency – Linden dollars that are traded in the physical world.
For some companies, it did not live up to commercial expectations, while others have realized its value. Some individuals claim to earn $100,000+ annually on Second Life.
Virtual and augmented reality training:
Virtual and augmented reality training solutions are on the verge of becoming popular methods to train employees. I feature some interesting use-cases in the Ultimate Business Continuity Tips, Techniques and Tools Newsletter.
For example, Forklift Simulator and 3D Forklift Trainer are immersive environments that can be used to train warehouse workers to operate forklifts in a safe virtual reality environment. Drivers can make mistakes and learn without worrying about getting injured.
Before we leave this post I want to share one more example of creative thinking that excites me. Great ideas mashed up with great technology can make a positive impact on people’s lives, when they need it most.
Here is just such an idea applied to disaster recovery:
LuminAID is an inspiring small company that had a great idea:
Great ideas can spread virally and that happened to LuminAid. Word spread globally and their lights are now being used in over 70 countries. In third world countries, where power can be unreliable or non-existent, children can now study by safe clean LuminAid lights rather than dangerous smelly oil based contraptions. The solution is also used by hikers in Yosemite, backpackers in Whistler, and emergency workers in Nepal. Even the reality investment show ABC’s Shark Tank saw the LuminAID vision irresistible, and invited the two founders on the show for a chance to premiere their product on prime-time.
If you found this post interesting I would be happy to share other interesting tech products and tips with you with a free subscription to the Ultimate Business Continuity Tips, Techniques and Tools Newsletter.