CSIRO have been developing software for monitoring social media. Last monday I went to Canberra to talk to Ron Jones who is responsible for business development of these products. We met, near his office on the ANU campus, at the Purple Pickle cafe.
We discussed two products but I am going to focus on the Emergency Situation Awareness application (ESA) for this blog post since its very relevant to the work that Smap Consulting does. The title of this post is a quote from a video produced by CSIRO showing how ESA works.
My understanding is that ESA analyses the frequency of occurrence of key words or hashtags in tweets over a period of several months. Then if there is a deviation from the background level of a word during a 2 minute window an alert will be created at one of 4 levels depending on the amount of deviation; green-blue-purple-red. Here is a screen shot from the video showing alerts for the word storm around about the time a tropical storm hit Brisbane.
The second column is the date and time that the alerts began, the third column the duration that an elevated alert level was maintained and the 4th column the number of alerts during that period. ESA has an API that allows an external system to interrogate the statistical server.
This would be a great tool to integrate with Smap and Ushahidi to get a better picture of the situation after a rapid onset emergency. ESA could be used to identify new events while Smap can be used to provide an assessment of that event. The results can then be shown on a tool such as the Speed portal, further filtering the “firehose” of information that emergency workers can be subjected to.
Getting this tool applied to rapid onset emergencies in developing countries would require a little bit of effort and cash. For example currently only tweets in Australia are monitored. Possibly we would need a server for Africa or Asia etc. However it looks very promising to me.