Editor’s note: Tom Snyder is executive director of RIoT, the regional users group focused on the Internet of Things.

RALEIGH- Last week, Governor Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency in NC, a full week ahead of the anticipated landfall of Hurricane Florence.  This declaration allows emergency resources to “pre-respond,”  deploying ahead of the disaster, much better positioning for successful response.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been hyped for several years as the 4th Industrial Revolution and the next big wave of the economy.  In large part, this excitement is driven by the understanding that IoT data is so massive, it allows industry to stop being reactive to the market and instead to be predictive and much more profitable.  The same principles apply to smart government.

While weather forecasting remains an inexact science, the accuracy is improving dramatically year over year in large part due to IoT. Weather stations were some of the earliest hubs of remote data collection.  Weather balloons and the dropsonde sensors dropped from jets into hurricanes provide critical data, all connected wirelessly to data servers that crunch, analyze and make recommended actions. This data, analyzed in real time, is constantly improving based on machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms trained with data from prior storms – enabling pre-response.

RIoT photo

Tom Snyder, RIoT executive director

Coinciding with improved weather data, what is less known is the preparation taken by cities and municipalities across North Carolina to gain access to smart data and communication tools for data sharing.  With enough information, potential emergencies like Florence are less impactful and lesser storms perhaps don’t become an issue at all.

Charlotte has led the way in deploying FirstNet, a new public safety broadband network that assures first responder communications – and critical public safety data – are always connected, regardless of how crowded the public networks may become.  AT&T, through public-private partnership, is working to get FirstNet deployed statewide in the near future.  These networks allow IoT systems to remain active through crises.

RIoT has been working with Green Stream, a regional startup that installs water detection systems along the coast of VA and SC.  These systems give early warning of flood conditions.  In the past few days, Green Stream sensors accurately predicted early flooding that has begun in Norfolk and are measuring much higher than normal tides along coastal NC.

[Current Green Stream sensor installations are in Western NC. Eastern NC installations ordered by NCEM are pending installation, the company just informed WRAL TechWire.].

Recently Wilson contracted to install Green Stream sensors on critical intersections in town to predict and prevent dangerous driving conditions.  Every year, people on the street are endangered, finding out the extent of floods in person.  IoT enables not only accurate real-time and remote measure, but early warning and prediction.

Wilson has shown further leadership, partnering with Triangle UAS to utilize drones for situational awareness in emergency response.  Quickly and affordably, drone sensing and cameras can capture enough information to more efficiently and safely deal with floods, fires and other disasters.

Similarly, Cary realizes that the more information they have, the faster and more accurately they can respond to emergencies.  Cary implemented an open technology interface so that multiple systems plug into a common system, allowing the city to see IoT traffic data, water data, camera feeds and more all on a common dashboard.

Over time, in the same way that weather stations have allowed forecasting to improve, IoT will more broadly help society shift from emergency response, to emergency pre-response and eventually emergency prevention.

If you’re in the strike region of Florence, stay safe and remain confident that now more than ever your local officials are leveraging IoT data to provide technology-enabled protection in critical weather events.

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