How Technology Will Support Emergency Preparedness in 2020

Vidsys President Maurice Singleton explains how organizations are working harder than ever to use technology to remove people from harm’s way.

It may only sound like a symbolically important year but with an upcoming U.S. election, a growing conversation around preventing violence and public-safety threats and an increasing debate about the use of controversial technology like facial recognition, 2020 will surely be an exciting year in the security technology space.

In 2020, technology will make our lives easier and, more importantly, safer. Overall, many organizations are moving toward using technology to remove people from tedious or dangerous work in order to leverage their talent for more complex responsibilities that require human thinking.

Looking ahead, here are three ways this trend is sure to impact the security industry in the coming year:

Using Virtual Reality for Emergency Preparedness & Response

When it comes to training emergency response personnel, relying on scripted simulations of past events has proven to be both expensive and ineffective. Fortunately, the tide is turning thanks to the popularization of virtual reality (VR). With VR technology, state, local and federal agencies can gain access to an array of training scenarios, helping them better prepare for smart mitigation and rescue decisions when real disasters strike.

VR training development is already happening in cities like Austin, Texas, where researchers at Texas State University are working with the Austin-Travis County EMS to develop a system that better trains medics through the use of augmented reality (AR) and VR.

According to Dr. George Koutitas, “In AR you see a virtual environment that is overlaid in the form of a hologram on the physical environment or space. This provides the advantage of improving the physical memory during the training.”

While the Texas State University program has already helped the organization cut costs while training more people, EMS training is just the beginning. VR training adoption will continue to spread, allowing organizations to better prepare for other risky scenarios like hazardous material spills, fire rescues and mass casualty events.

When responding to crises, organizations are also beginning to use tools like 3D mapping to better analyze and understand the impact of an incident after it occurs. For example, after natural disasters like hurricanes and wildfires, state and local agencies use geographic information science (GIS) to identify areas that are dangerous or inaccessible and determine which areas are most in need. Or when responding to house fires, smart mapping tools help guide on-the-ground responders to defibrillators and water. These additional levels of insight help response teams mitigate potentially catastrophic results.

Predictive Analytics

We will continue to see the improvement of technology dedicated to analyzing and assessing the “normal” human and machine behavior. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning tools allow organizations to quickly crunch and analyze the vast amount of data that are created in their operational environment. This data is the key to being able to pinpoint security threats and make more accurate and timely risk predictions.

The advancement of AI will make it easier to perform repetitive, day-to-day tasks that don’t need 24/7 attention from a human, such as monitoring continuous camera and social media feeds. Adoption of predictive analytics tools will also assist personnel in security operation centers (SOCs) that monitor for threats, such severe weather and terrorist activity, to quickly detect patterns based on data sourced by AI from past events. This will help human operators respond swiftly and with more accuracy.

Similar predictive analytics may even help to detect risk before an incident happens, identifying where and when attacks are most likely to occur based on past situations, potentially saving companies millions of dollars.

The most exciting thing about predictive analytics is that the more widely these tools are adopted within a SOC, and the longer the technology is employed, the more the data is validated. This makes predictive analytics increasingly accurate over time.

Advancement of Robotics Technology

As we move into a new decade, drones and other robotic technologies will continue to evolve and become more advanced. This is a critical technological advancement that will reduce the frequency with which humans are required to work in high-risk situations. Again, human resources will be free to remotely perform strategic and investigative work, far away from where the dangerous situation is physically resolved by a machine.

For example, soon, much of public safety management will be managed remotely by humans through a network of devices and systems, like gunshot detection systems and video analytics tools as well unmanned vehicles and robotic devices, like drones. This will be critical to monitoring complex security environments, like large public events, and managing precarious situations, such as investigating suspicious packages and bomb threats.

Robotics will also continue to be used to help remotely manage key assets that are difficult to physically monitor and inspect — such as train rails, bridge pilings and nuclear facilities — allowing organizations to perform these crucial jobs, while keeping personnel safely out of harms way.

While advancements in security technology have helped to make life safer, as we look to the coming year and beyond, it will be more important than ever to continue to strive towards better ways of using technology to solve security challenges. This investment will not only provide better protection to key assets and personnel, but also help society develop more confidence in the technology that keeps them safe.


Maurice Singleton is President of Vienna, Va.-based Vidsys, a developer of physical security information management (PSIM) and converged security and information management (CSIM) solutions.

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