Government // Mobile & Wireless
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9/4/2013
02:03 PM
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White House Brainstorms With Businesses On Disaster Recovery

Google, Twitter, Zappos among 80 companies that helped government try to improve tools for disaster relief and recovery.

DARPA Robot Challenge: Disaster Recovery
DARPA Robot Challenge: Disaster Recovery
(click image for larger view)
The White House has turned to more than 80 innovators in the private sector to come up with ways that could help the U.S. government improve disaster response and recovery efforts. The collaboration supports the Obama administration's mission of bringing together talent from the public and private sectors to advance government services, federal CTO Todd Park said in a White House blog on Tuesday.

Representatives from big-name companies -- including Zappos, Marriott International, The Weather Channel, Twitter and Google -- spent a day in Washington, coming up with ideas for tools, products, services, programs and applications that could aid disaster survivors and communities. Nonprofits and government agencies joined these companies to brainstorm solutions for disaster relief that tap into both public and private expertise. The Data Jam/Think Tank challenge was a joint effort between the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The resulting ideas are expected to materialize into projects that support disaster response and recovery efforts, Park said.

One such idea is a communications platform that enables people who depend on electricity-powered medical devices to convey their needs to an emergency response network, which would then respond with deliveries of medication or a power generator. Another idea is a technical schema that tags all disaster-related information from social media and news sites. This would allow municipalities and first responders to identify the people and places that need help most. Participants wrote code and created working prototypes for both projects, according to the White House.

[ Data network resilience is a major problem in disasters. See Hurricane Sandy Lessons Learned: Wireless Communications . ]

Participants in the challenge also came up with a Disaster Relief Innovation Vendor Engine (DRIVE) that aggregates pre-approved vendors in industries like transportation, power, housing and medical supplies; a "crowdfunding" platform for small businesses looking for capital to rebuild after a disaster; and a "community power-go-round" network that can generate electricity and additional power for battery-charged devices, such as mobile phones.

Part of the motivation for the gathering was to develop smarter ways for government and the private sector to respond to disasters like those that resulted from Superstorm Sandy last year.

While the hurricane season is off to a slow start, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting above-normal activity this year. Six to nine hurricanes could still develop before the season officially ends on Nov. 30. Superstorm Sandy devastated the Atlantic coastline in October 2012, leaving many residents of the Eastern U.S. unprepared as disaster struck. As Sandy's one-year anniversary approaches, the government wants to be ready for the next time, said Park in the blog post, written jointly with FEMA's deputy administrator Rich Serino.

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David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
9/4/2013 | 10:16:52 PM
re: White House Brainstorms With Businesses On Disaster Recovery
Is there some process for selecting ideas from this effort to be implemented? How does this activity translate into action?
Alex Kane Rudansky
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Alex Kane Rudansky,
User Rank: Author
9/5/2013 | 4:03:18 PM
re: White House Brainstorms With Businesses On Disaster Recovery
I wonder how far these public-private partnerships go -- is this just to get some innovative ideas flowing, or will the private companies see the projects through from start to finish?
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