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FOSE wrap-up: In case of emergency...

Six months after we tragically got to know her, Katrina was on the lips of many solution providers at this week's FOSE tradeshow in Washington, which wrapped up yesterday.

You say you have a ruggedized communication kit?

"It's perfect for use in a disaster like Katrina."

That streaming application platform is compelling.

"It helps continuity of operations in situations like Katrina"

You mean all you vendors have an emergency notification system?

"Well, when something like Katrina hits..."

The fact is, it sometimes takes a significant event (Y2K, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina) not just to drive technology innovation, but to make enterprises appreciate the possibilities of existing products and services. There were several overriding themes at this year's FOSE, from RFID to open source. But the plethora of emergency notification solutions was striking.

There were products from Send Word Now and ForgeHouse in the Palm booth, plus platforms from MIR3, MorganFranklin, PAR3 Communications, Sigma Communications, and Twenty First Century Communications.

Notification systems are important, and frankly we can't figure out why government hasn't already come further in deploying this kind of technology, although some groups have.

And there are a lot of admirable patchwork approaches out there. Just the other week we were impressed to see a West Virginia Amber Alert pop up on one of our monitors via the WeatherBug online service. It turns out that type of notification was courtesy of a program run by the National Weather Service, which has been aiming to provide more than just weather updates.

But with so many government agencies now being pitched on newer and more robust systems, we're trying to figure out what makes one better than another. During talks at FOSE, a few criteria bubbled to the surface.

  1. What platforms does it support? Most systems can broadcast messages to phone, handhelds, fax machines, PCs, etc. But you should make sure the devices you use are supported.

  2. Who runs it? There are several systems run soley by a third party. If you'd rather control your notification system, you'll want a solution you can operate on your own servers. But depending on the information you intend to broadcast, an application service provider might do nicely.

  3. How customizable is it? Many notification systems are template-based. But the information you want to push out to one group of people, while essentially the same, may not be the exact information you want another group to see.

  4. What kind of intelligence is built in? For example, you might like a system that gives key response personnel a fixed amount of time to respond, then automatically escalates or re-routes the alert.

There will certainly be a slew of other considerations that go into an emergency notification system procurement. As we see more of these systems in action, we'll let you know what we find.

Posted by Brad Grimes

Posted by Brad Grimes, Joab Jackson on Mar 10, 2006 at 9:39 AM


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