Carnegie Mellon Improving Disaster Recovery with Educational Technology

Carrie Schmelkin : Gossip from the Hallways
Carrie Schmelkin
Web Editor, TMC

Carnegie Mellon Improving Disaster Recovery with Educational Technology

This past week the TMCnet team headed west to San Jose, Calif., to meet with some of the biggest and brightest in the tech space. Amongst some big-shot names in the industry such as Skype, MegaPath, Alcatel-Lucent and Sprint, representatives from Carnegie Mellon, one of the leading technology schools in the country, made their way over to the event.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Steven Ray, distinguished research fellow at the university, who told me all about how a group of Carnegie Mellon folks banded together to figure out how to use their innovation and technology to improve upon the process of disaster recovery.  The group, called the Disaster Management Initiative, aims to provide open and interoperable next-generation technical solutions for all-hazard multi-jurisdictional disasters. 

“We started this program inspired in part by things like 9/11, Katrina, the tsunami after we got to thinking that we ought to be able to do better than that,” Ray told me. “Certainly software solutions exist and technology solutions exist.”

Since then, the group has gone on to do some pretty remarkable work.

This past May, for example, the Disaster Management Initiative, decided to measure how well emergency vehicles share information between each other and the answer was, “not very well,” according to Ray. While they can send emails, they are not yet able to share map data or streaming video or have a database of resource locations; all of that is still manually done. This is one item the consortium, made up of everyone from state representatives to college coeds to NASA officials to fire fighters, is focusing its efforts at correcting.

Going further back, the group created a new application for Apple's iPhone 3GS that performs speech-to-speech and speech-to-text translation between English and other languages. The app was so successful that it quickly became the number one grossing App in Japan and the most downloaded travel application.

Ray went on to discuss a multitude of other projects that the brightest minds in the Silicon Valley are working on, and I assure you the list is pretty impressive.

What I find so interesting about things like our event in San Jose is that amidst the obvious tech leaders – the cloud communications providers, data center management companies and wireless leaders – there are teams like Carnegie Mellon that are paving their own way in technology. The creations by Carnegie Mellon’s faculty and students and the consortium participants prove the point that educational institutions are just as much at the leading edge of technology trends as anyone else in the industry. And with young minds like Carnegie Mellon’s students on the case, we are bound to be in for some pretty great creations.


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