By Ed Chater, our man in New York!
The recent events of Hurricane Sandy have had a devastating effect on the East Coast. The trail of destruction is dramatic across all 12 states that have been affected, especially here in NYC. Having experienced Sandy first-hand, I've been struck by how absolutely pivotal mobile communication is now during times of crisis. Generators at hospitals, storm defences, tunnels, bridges, railways and power lines were all at the mercy of Sandy, yet mobile stood strong. Here are a couple of examples that, while simple, demonstrate how powerful mobile can be during an emergency...
Mobile was utilized to warn residents in danger areas before Sandy hit. Extreme Alerts were transmitted to people’s phones that were in danger areas. The messages took over the screen and rang a tone to grab attention. The first message gave details of the mandatory evacuation notice, and then I was sent further instructions on Monday before the storm hit:
These alerts demonstrate the power of messaging on mobile when you get the context right. The NYC authorities were able to extend the reach of their other communication channels by sending these alerts to an engaged audience, and by using geo-location information they were able to target those in danger.
I was fortunate enough not to lose power but the internet did go down. This meant I relied 100% on 4G data services to keep me informed. Without it I wouldn't have been able to keep up to date with the events that were happening outside of my door! Twitter told me that the sirens I could hear that were heading to a nearby hospital and that flooding was not going to reach my street! Mobile internet access also meant I could WhatsApp my family that I was safe to get them to not worry.
Smartphones have a meaningful impact on our lives, and making it through Sandy has helped reassure me of this well known fact. Mobile became the primary connection and source for access to internet during the hurricane for many. We know there is a growing trend towards accessing the internet through mobile devices rather than desktops, but the difference this makes was really brought home to me this week by Sandy.
Lastly, while the winds seem to have died down, here's a couple of pics of what it's been like in NYC - taken, of course, on my smartphone...