This post is Part 3 of 3 in a series of reports on how new technologies in the auto industry may have an impact on alerts and warnings in the future.
Open Sourcing Innovation and Information
Today, let’s talk innovation. As we mentioned in part 2, the app market is booming. According to research firm IDC, 25 billion apps were downloaded in 2011, and that number is expected to grow to 182 Billion by 2018. Many of these apps are designed with a mobile user in mind – either accessing the app using their smartphone or tablet, but the auto industry presents another new growth opportunity for this market. Software developers can mash up data and format it in new ways that enable access while on the road and display on vehicle consoles.
Some of the vehicle manufacturers are already seeking ways to spur and incentivize the automobile app market. This is a shift in how in-vehicle technology is developed, going from in-house development to allowing a third party to design, develop, and market an app in the marketplace and letting consumers rate the app’s value. This could mean a smaller, less risky investment for auto manufacturers and a wider range of options (both good and bad) for consumers. Quality control is managed by the consumers, but auto manufacturers can partner on new apps with third parties and also pick and choose which apps to endorse to help their customers navigate the broader marketplace. For example, OnStar recently opened up their “digital DNA” to developers. This will allow the developers to access vehicle-centric information such as location, diagnostics, and remote capabilities and controls in order to develop apps that OnStar can use to customize users’ experiences. Ford is also working with third-parties to develop apps for its vehicles. Last year, over a thousand developers submitted ideas for apps as part of the “Ford SYNC App Developer Challenge.” Roximity, a location-based daily deal notification service, won and is now being considered for future integration with Ford’s network.
The Power of Open Source for Auto Alerting
So how does this relate to alerts and warnings? What these examples present is a concept of changing the way alert and warning data is developed and received. Companies like Ford and OnStar are moving towards “open source teaming” providing data and tools to third parties in order to be more agile and innovative in how they deliver new capabilities. This year, Google launched Google Public Alerts where they aggregate and publish alert data from trusted sources such as the National Weather Service, United States Geological Survey, and other participating agencies. An app developer can take that data and mash it with other publicly available information and package it in a way that allows the user to receive a more-customized alert. Previously, that kind of capability didn’t exist and it would have required a more involved proprietary product development process.
Providing data from a trusted source and allowing others to have access to it allows it to be used in a number of ways. The National Weather Service is an example of a Federal Agency that publishes data that is used by a number of websites, broadcasters, and even software developers who put it together and publish it according to their audience’s specific need.
The Remaining Challenge: Data Management
The challenge is not the lack of data, but the ability to aggregate, interpret, and authenticate it. For alert originators and emergency managers decentralizing or “outsourcing” emergency management data collection to a third party may be seen as ameteurizing the information so there is a tendency to view it as less credible. However, as the Ford and OnStar examples are intended to demonstrate, it can also mean greater opportunities and more help from the community, but you have to figure out what’s the best way to channel the information.
The availability of networks, access to data, and push for innovation will enhance alert and warning capabilities and the way in which the public can respond to and protect themselves during an incident. While many of the technologies mentioned in this series are a few years away, it can be helpful to imagine and plan for a world when these capabilities will be more widely adopted. For now, most of us will just have to stay tuned to our radios and keep our CMAS-enabled devices close to receive our alerts and warnings.
Ms. Sweeney is a senior consultant with SRA International Strategy and Performance Group who has worked in the alerts and warnings space for several years. As part of her work with the Department of Homeland Security, she has had the opportunity to engage federal, state, and local agencies; the private sector; and academic institutions to improve alerts and warnings. She is currently working to envision what alerts and warnings will look like in the next 5-10 years. Previously, Ms. Sweeney worked in marketing for a consumer products start-up and Fortune 500 company.