There was a time in my consulting career where I was providing GIS software and database support to the US federal critical infrastructure protection community. Part of that work involved ‘event response,’ which most often took the form of natural disasters. I never deployed, but a lot of my co-workers did.
Ground truth was always the biggest problem. We were always trying to get a sense of what conditions were like on the ground with as little latency as we could manage. With the technology of the 2003 – 2007 time frame, that was a significant challenge. Whether notepads or spreadsheets or custom data collection extensions deployed on ToughBooks, we tried just about everything we could think of. Some of my co-workers even managed a forward-deployed ArcIMS server to try to get anything useful out of the affected areas after Katrina.
Fast-forward to 2017 and we’re dealing with the unprecedented aftermath of Harvey in the Houston, Texas area. I find myself in the fortunate position of working for a company, Spatial Networks, that has a technology I wish we had back then. In addition to the technology, the company has the will to open it up and put it in the hands of whomever needs it.
That technology is Fulcrum, which is the mobile data collection platform built by my company. The app is backed by Fulcrum Community, which was rolled out this year to provide free access to the Fulcrum platform for humanitarian needs. It’s already spun up to help crowd-source shelter locations in the greater Houston area.
The technology is one thing. It’s an app-store-available mobile app, backed by a mature infrastructure that’s been used for commercial purposes since 2011. It’s about the easiest deployment process I’ve ever dealt with and the back-end architecture can handle load.
The commitment is the other piece. I’ve been watching my co-workers tirelessly support the Community instance. They are currently provisioning it with a FEMA-compliant damage assessment form so people on the ground can help develop a picture of the scale of damage as the effort moves into the recovery phase.
Yes, it’s our commercial platform, but we’re not making a dime off of this. Everyone at Spatial Networks, from our CEO on down, is committed to making the power of Fulcrum available because we have something we know can help and it’s our responsibility to do so.