IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Winter 2013 - 18

for a common language, India would never have come
people know where to go for safety? Can they be
together to be the great country that it is today. Have
directed with signage? Certainly, paper and vinyl
you ever wondered about pilots flying into foreign
signs will not work, but digital LED signs/banners
countries? Again, the common language, at least for
coupled with voice communication through a mass
international and transcontinental flights, is English.
notification system would be ideal. On street lights
why then are we not looking for more common operindicator beaconscould be used to direct traffic.
ating systems for our cities to communicate with each
Emergencies are predictable, but where and when
other and ultimately with the national government? Is
they happen is not. Flexibility then becomes the key to
not one of the U.S.'s most important strengths the federal
emergency management. Some cities have what used
highway system? why then not a digital highway?
to be called "air raid sirens," today we think of them
Now that this entire information gathering effort is
as bad weather alerts. These alerts cause us to look up
afoot, to what end will it be used and how will it help
in the sky and essentially guess what and where the
the population? Large banks of computers or cloud
problem may be coming from.
based systems are being deployed to store and make
Let's elevate the issue of city management to state
sense out of the data. Analysis occurs via custom
management and ultimately to government Homesoftware unique to each system and companies like
land Security and the national grids. Either refinerIBM create software to help officials understand the
ies, energy plants, pipelines, ports, border crossings,
implications of what has been gathered. Then what?
government buildings, stadiums, or financial districts
If there is an accident, a fire, a water-main break, a
exist in every state in the U.S. (and in most coungunshot, or a terrorist threat - how will the people in
tries for that matter.) The U.S. Constitution requires
their cars and on the streets benefit from
that the federal government protect its
this information?
citizens. Now imagine the reality of all
Digital
why don't we just start over? Let's
states, counties, and cities that manage
banners can
look at the big picture. we need to deploy
their own software, hardware, and data
inform people collection systems with little or no guideinformation gathering systems that are
"smart", not just eyes and ears and noses,
lines for interoperability. You end up with
of anything -
but systems that can make sense out of
a hundred languages, data that may not
from where
the data right where it is collected. Morebe useful, and almost no ability to talk
to park and
over, a system is needed that can react
back to citizens in a meaningful way,
shop to a
with audio, video/visual, and directional
except for TV and radio - assuming they
information to alert motorists and pedesare working.
"drink Coke"
trians within milliseconds. we need a
we are now just beginning to see the
advertisement.
system that essentially does it all, in one
capability of wireless controls and data
platform, as easily as using an iPhone or
collection systems. Now is the time to
iPad, and that is flexible for future growth. It would
look into common operating platforms (COPs) to
seem like one system would also be far less expensive
truly gather all the information possible from outside
than four: less maintenance, less energy to operate,
(and even inside) environments, send it back home in
common parts, and easier replacement.
a meaningful way, and create a "talk back system" that
Next, a system is needed that finally deals with
informs the public. It's time to stop working in parmass notification. Simply, we need a system that
titioned methodologies and develop one economical
talks to us when we need help, or when we need to
outdoor media network. Among the ways that this is
be warned. Those that say iPhones are becoming that
economically feasible is through community messagsolution are partially correct, assuming that people
ing and advertising models. Done properly, the mass
sign up for notification services, can hear their phones
notification system can double as a radio playback
ring in a hurricane or during a fire, and are able to
method; national public radio (NPr) for the streets,
answer the phone! Nothing takes the place of a simple
ports, and parks. Digital banners can inform people
speaker. Not just one, but everywhere. Not one that
of anything - from where to park and shop to a "drink
barks from the top of a forty story building, but one
Coke" advertisement. Done in an aesthetically pleasthat can talk to you from a whisper to a shout and one
ing way, digital sign revenue can create an income
that is always near you. These need to be located as
stream that not only pays for a new outdoor media
frequently as are street poles and lights, usually every
system, but will create substantial recurring revenue.
100 feet or so, with a mass notification system embedFurther, if we have one common system, cities can use
ded securely and hidden within the light or the pole -
the aggregate cost of three to four systems and surely
which seems the most logical place.
save dearly needed assets.
Stadiums and arenas can have as many as 100 000
(continued on page 21)
people leaving at once. In a real emergency, how do
18

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wINTEr 2013



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