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Author's profile photo Danny Van Heck

Real-Time Situational Awareness: Turning Data into Knowledge for the Public Good

Whether it’s to plan a trip or check the most recent news about family and friends, people today expect to have the very latest information available immediately at our fingertips. We feel entitled to know the newest details about movies, events, and celebrities. We don’t bother looking at road maps and weather patterns until the very moment we leave because we can garner knowledge instantly on our smartphones and devices.


Governments are no different. Agencies and departments have always needed to access information to share with constituents and to manage their areas of responsibility for the public good. Historically, that information has only been available to vertical departments within organizations. But technology has pushed the envelope to enable information to be turned into knowledge horizontally across historically siloed government entities and between governments and citizens. Governments can now leverage huge volumes of structured and unstructured data in real time to focus it in a way that makes sense.


In fact, packaged technology solutions for real-time situational awareness (RTSA) can give governments a way to put all that data into context, make it easy to digest, and use it to make better, more timely decisions.  With RTSA, organizations can capture data from a multiplicity of sources like sensors, cameras, e-mails, and documents; aggregate and analyze that data; and use it in real time to avoid hazardous situations and enhance operations like never before

What makes RTSA possible?

RTSA is emerging today because of a confluence of new technologies:


  • Real-time data platform ‒
    Everything we do today creates data, from the selfies we take to the e-mails and texts we send to the turnstiles and automated tolls we travel through. This leaves us with a constantly increasing mountain of information to access and use. When technologies like in-memory computing are combined with analytics, processing time decreases dramatically, enabling us to work with that data in real time.
  • Cloud ‒

Today there are new, unlimited options to store the huge amounts of data we create, and the ability to store as much of it as we want off premise. So, theoretically we have access to more data than ever before.

  • Predictive analysis ‒
    Technological advances allow us not only to report on what has happened, but also to quickly perform intricate analysis on what could happen. With plausible, timely scenarios available officials can see trends, evaluate possible outcomes, and take appropriate action.
  • Mobile ‒

The ever-expanding capabilities of mobile devices, applications, and enterprise mobile platforms allow us to capture and transmit data in real time, and consume data in the format needed wherever we are.


How can RTSA help public sector organizations?

RTSA can enable governing bodies to improve performance across a multitude of disciplines, streamline operations, and provide for public safety and security at a whole new level. Governments can use RTSA in time-sensitive situations including managing traffic, policing, border patrol, public health emergencies, and natural or manmade disasters. RTSA can empower not only the monitoring of real-time conditions, but also the ability to predict and avert the negative effects of an impending event. Imagine the value of using real-time, comprehensive data to respond to natural disasters like Superstorm
, the tsunami that struck Japan in 2011, or the recent tornado in Italy. These events brought massive flooding, power and communications outages,
record property damage, and loss of life. Think how helpful such a solution could be in managing a healthcare emergency like the outbreak of Ebola.


How are public sector organizations using RTSA today?

Cities, agencies, fire and rescue departments, and federal governments have seen the value this could bring and are exploring the use of RTSA to protect citizens from security threats, health hazards, and natural disasters.

Moving into the future with RTSA

By 2050, as many as 6 billion people ‒ two thirds of the world’s population ‒ are expected to live in cities and towns. Local authorities and municipalities will be challenged to effectively manage resources and to protect and serve a larger, more concentrated public. RTSA can undoubtedly play a key role in helping governments sense, predict, and act in real time to prevent and respond faster to incidents and risks. This is especially true as disasters cross jurisdictional lines and require integration and effective use of resources, staff, and equipment. Learn more about technology solutions for RTSA.

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