Google+ as an Emergency Broadcast SystemPosted: July 6, 2011
Yup. Another Google+ post. I’ve been working on my own stuff, but Google+ is open most of the day, while FB gets checked only on occasion now.
I saw a post in an old fashioned forum yesterday with some interested in the location tagging available in Google+. I had a look at it, tried a single check in, thought “neat”, then deleted the post again. I’ve watched 4Square and Gowalla and Facebook Places along with a bunch of “Me Too” companies spring up over the last couple of years and always found the check in idea somewhat puzzling.
First off, from a security standpoint, when you tell the world where you are, you are also telling people where you aren’t. Checking in at the grocery store is one thing, but checking in from Hawaii when you live in Nebraska only serves to let the world know that robbing you now would be the best time. Those using services like these are living online and anyone can find out enough personal information to figure out where and when to rob you.
Secondly, and probably because I’m not a super social type of person, I don’t want everyone to know where I am all the time. In fact, if I want you to know where I am, you’ll know. Otherwise, you don’t need to know. I do, however, understand that some people are far more social than I, so whatever floats your boat I guess. I was highly annoyed with Facebook’s roll out of Places where your friends could now check you in unless you specifically turned off the ability.
Anyways, looking at the ability to post with your location on Google+, and how easy they have made it to do from your smartphone shows that they have learned from the other forays into the market. The other cool feature is the ability to see posts from people near you whether you follow each other or not. Now maybe the other services do this type of thing too, I don’t know.
What this did make me think about however, was the ability for the system to become a hub in different circumstances. Say I go to a concert, I now have a way to crowdsource all kinds of photos and videos from all kinds of angles. Maybe my seats aren’t great, but I can still get some close ups of the guitarists fingers to figure out how to play that song. The same kind of thing would go for sporting events, festivals, and things like that.
What I really wonder now though, is how the platform will be utilized in more trying times, say in cases like the recent Japanese earthquakes. Seeing masses of information from people within your area that could give you the earliest warning possible that you needed to get to higher ground before the tsunami hit. And it would not matter how “connected” you were to the city. Hell, even if you were a tourist, the geo-data would allow you to tap into a real time emergency broadcast system. Assuming Google+ becomes as widespread as Facebook, that’s a potential revolution in saving lives during a crisis.
Say you were a Vancouver Canucks fan at the game where your team just lost game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals after a hell of a series. Afterwards, when everyone poured into the streets and the riots began, you could have used the data to find a path out of the chaos by avoiding the hot spots. Law Enforcement could have used the geo-tagging and uploaded photos and videos to not only respond to the worst of what was going on, but piece together geo-tagged and time-stamped information to help with prosecutions.
Now of course, there is the potential dark-side of this technology in that the same mentality that sees crowds of otherwise law abiding citizens jump into a riot could be more easily swayed to go see the action, opening the door to larger problems than without any technology.
Another issue, much like Twitter has already seen, is that you’re drinking from the firehose. There would be so much information pouring in that vetting it and figuring out which information was reliable would likely be difficult. Add to that chore the stress, panic, possible injury and context of the situation, and it may be near impossible to process the information correctly.
There are certain to be some unintended consequences to the technology, but I really think the ability for the service to be utilized in large scale disasters (assuming data towers are still standing) could have a huge impact on providing early warning system with the beauty being that you don’t need to “be connected’ to get information. I think this specific feature has a ton of potential. I’ve just started thinking about the possibilities here and would love to hear you thoughts.