The goal of the Israel Export & International Cooperation Institute is to foster business and trade opportunities for Israeli companies. The U.S. delegation visited the Institute to meet with vendors offering products of potential interest to emergency medical systems. Among the companies represented was trendIT (www.trendit.net), whose software that maps demographic trends over time especially intrigued the Americans.
Crowd-based disasters like earthquakes or bombings are among the most challenging situations EMS crews face. They know people are injured and even trapped, but all they see are piles of twisted rubble and wreckage.
What if their cell phones could help first responders locate the victims quickly? That's an idea that caught the imagination of trendIT, an Israeli-based software company that develops population-analytics products. trendIT's solution is called RealTime, and it is frankly rather amazing.
"By analyzing anonymous cellular signals and performing complex numeric and statistical models, trendIT RealTime is able to provide, in real time, information regarding the numbers and demographic attributes of people in a given geographical area," says Ori Lavie, the company's COO. RealTime's data is shown on a clickable Web-based map: With a few mouse clicks, first responders can find out how many people are in a given area and where they came from. In circumstances where the crowds are free-moving, the software can even predict where they will go next.
"EMS and first responders work on assumptions, such as casualty assumptions and crowd control assumptions," Lavie says. "trendIT takes the guesswork out of the process. It allows EMS and first responders to use a map display and zoom in on any location to see the amount and demographics of the people in that area. As an example, in the case of an earthquake or building collapse, dispatch can send forces to the building that has the most people in it." trendIT RealTime could also be used to recreate pre-event crowd data in areas where people have gone missing, such as a tsunami zone.
In nonemergency situations, trendIT can be used to better manage crowd control and allocate resources. "Since there is knowledge about the home locations of the crowd," Lavie says, "the information can be used to forecast where people will go after the event and clear the correct roads in advance."
Once the crowds have gone, trendIT RealTime allows first responders to go back in time, as it were, to analyze the actual crowd statistics and determine if their preparations were correct. Finally, Lavie, says, "First responders can analyze historic population movements and behavior to predict future events and act accordingly."
The bottom line: trendIT RealTime can make emergency response and planning more predictable and rational--in a world that is anything but.
James Careless is a freelance journalist with extensive experience covering public-safety communications issues.