New Zealand is revered for its natural beauty and lush landscapes. But with a long coastline, and our location straddling a tectonic plate boundary at the edge of the vast and windy Southern Pacific Ocean, we are extremely susceptible to the threat of natural disasters. Tsunami, earthquake, flood and landslide warnings are not uncommon, and in Auckland in particular, which rests upon many extinct or dormant volcanoes, we are attuned to the possibility of volcanic eruptions.
The Auckland Civil Defense & Emergency Management (CDEM) authority is the regional agency responsible for emergency management, and their traditional means of alerting the public was to send press releases and e-mails to local civil defense groups and media, which in turn alerted citizens using sirens or TV and radio announcements.
But what if residents weren’t listening to their radios or watching TV? What if the threat was in the middle of the night, while everyone was sleeping? Or what if the event occurred midday, when families were separated at school or work?
CLOUD M recognized the serious need to modernize the country’s public alert system and set forth developing a cloud-based emergency alert application called Alerter in 2011. Our plan was to harness the power of smartphones to send alerts faster and keep families and friends connected when disaster strikes.
Through the first couple years of our roll-out, we tested a handful of different cloud services that all fell short in their capabilities and technical support. In emergency situations, when every second counts, to save lives and property, downtime can literally be fatal.
Then late last year, we engaged with IBM and became the first cloud startup in the Asia-Pacific region to join its Global Entrepreneur Program. This turned out to be a game-changing partnership for us.
Through the GEP, we’ve been able to build, deploy and easily scale our app on the SoftLayer platform, with great technical support. When the Alerter app went live on SoftLayer, it was so much faster than before that users thought we had released a new version.
Today, Alerter gets alerts and safety information to subscribers’ smartphones, newsfeeds and social media sites with unprecedented speed and efficiency.
Alerter users can also create an emergency-oriented network of friends and loved ones to stay connected by sharing their status through e-mail and text messages, “nudging” people to check on them, and sharing their exact location on a map. Because the app synchronizes with content on the CDEM website in real time and stores the information, citizens can access the latest news even when network connections fail.
Since mid-2013, the CDEM has used Alerter to help protect 1.4 million residents during many storms, earthquakes and two major tsunami warnings. Through our work and our partnership with IBM, we’re convinced more than ever that public emergency information sharing is best done through mobile and the cloud.
Plus, we’ve migrated a second app to SoftLayer, as well, called Blerter. Blerter provides connectivity for distributed workforces, so that employees, sub-contractors and even site visitors can report and collaborate on health and safety updates, incidents and observations in real time.
Through our work and our partnership with IBM, we’re convinced more than ever that public and private emergency information sharing is best done through mobile and the cloud.