Fighting Natural Disasters With AI
To date, the 2019 California wildfire season has resulted in 6,402 fires and an estimated 250,349 acres of burned land. In October, the Kincade Fire became the largest fire of the year, burning 77,758 acres in Sonoma County.
Adding to the pain of many California residents, PG&E and other power utilities preemptively shut off power to many residents due to risk of wildfires starting in high winds due to high-voltage power lines.
The California wildfires have challenged enterprise security professionals as well, who are responsible for protecting their respective constituents, including managing emergency evacuations. For example, Cal Maritime Academy in Northern California ordered an emergency evacuation when fires spread quickly toward its campus.
How can security professionals tasked with protecting large, sprawling venues leverage their existing security hardware and software investments to better prepare for emergencies? The answer may be spatial intelligence, which is how security can take all the data their security equipment and IoT devices are producing and convert it into actionable information. That’s only possible with AI.
For example, thanks to machine learning and AI algorithms, software can automate the creation of heat maps of people flow, created during fire drills to better track people flows so managers can address bottlenecks for faster evacuations in the future.
Kevin Davis, Chief Security Officer at Armored Things, has deployed space utilization technology at a variety of facilities, including the University of Tennessee.
How have the recent California wildfires challenged security professionals?
Kevin Davis: The California wildfires have been devastating to urban areas in a way that normally only affects more rural and remote parts of the country. Which is what makes them all the more challenging. Dealing with a fast-moving, difficult-to-control disaster is difficult enough in a rural area. An urban area, especially a densely populated area like California, presents an even more high-stakes and dangerous challenge. Developing a coordinated, organized relief and evacuation effort across police, fire and other emergency services in dozens of jurisdictions is a huge challenge, especially when the lives of millions are potentially at risk. And communicating those plans and efforts to citizens is even harder. I think we greatly underestimate truly how difficult it is to manage and execute disaster plans, and I am grateful for the efforts of all the emergency responders in California.
How can security professionals leverage existing security hardware and software investments to prepare for emergencies?
Kevin Davis: Experienced security personnel generally have an advanced understanding of their venue or campus, but many of them still rely on manual processes to do their jobs. By harnessing data collected from their existing security solutions, operators can make more evidence-based decisions to prevent or manage an incident. Rather than relying solely on intuition, better use of existing systems can provide a detailed and accurate understanding of hot spots and operations. For instance, operators of college campuses or stadiums can use real-time occupancy and flow data collected from existing security devices to detect risks like overcrowding and bottlenecks that can have a major impact on operations and get ahead of those risks before they become unmanageable. AI can provide predictions on how a venue will look based on previous patterns and allow security operators to more dynamically understand when and where to put their people and make necessary changes in real-time.
How can spatial intelligence benefit security operations?
Kevin Davis: Primarily, spatial intelligence provides a different level of support to security operators by giving them data-driven insights about their venue that they may intuitively know, but have not been validated by data. Spatial intelligence solutions are helping operators make data-driven decisions and adjust their operations in a way that is backed by a more spatially aware understanding of their space. Once security teams are given the power to gather and analyze their data, the opportunities to improve operations are endless. Using spatial intelligence provides daily value for staffing, managing crowds and responding to incidents in a smarter, faster and more effective way.
What advice do you have for colleagues who may be considering implementing the technology?
Kevin Davis: Consider spatial intelligence platforms to improve situational awareness without purchasing new systems of sensors by optimizing existing IT and security infrastructure. Whether you’re investing in wi-fi or new security cameras, the data from those devices, when combined into a unified platform, can lead to the discovery of powerful organizational-wide insights that increase ROI department-wide.