Australian technology aids tsunami relief

A group of Australian technology providers has banded together to launch a new service that aims to help detect and deal with emergencies, including disasters on a scale of last year’s Asian Tsunami.

Sydney-based software company ThoughtWeb Inc. has developed a system for “using smart Internet technology to help prioritization,” according to CEO Chris Murray.

“It’s like project management software, but scales to hundreds of people working on many projects,” Murray said. “The first stage was assessment of the destruction, then to help prevent death and disease, and finally a tsunami warning system was developed.”

Murray said there are three parts to the tsunami warning system: the detection of seismic events from sensors and satellites, interpretation of the data, and feeding the information into the telephony grids of nations.

“We’ve developed the central mechanisms of the technology and are in discussions with governments to change standards to ensure highly-secure communications goes to people fast,” he said. “The technology is not limited to tsunamis and could be used for tornados or nuclear accidents.”

Deployed in conjunction with Hawaii’s Pacific Disaster Centre, ThoughtWeb’s application is written in Java and is hosted on a Sun V440 at ac3’s data centre in Sydney. Oracle is being used for the database.

The final piece of the project is now being validated by scientific groups and is expected to go live within two weeks. This will allow program management for all disaster projects.

“This is being used by large corporations now and allows projects to be made more visible,” Murray said. “Last year we set up a new business, Safer Nation, which is dedicated to emergency and disaster recovery. This technology is used to figure out the downstream consequence of a disaster. For example, how a power failure would affect hospitals.”

The U.S. Department of Energy has expressed interest in the technology and has worked with ThoughtWeb since 1999.

Murray believes if people can get a collaboration and knowledge-sharing facility working in a few days then it’s possible to solve these problems at a lower risk.

“We’ve been doing R&D for a long time, over 15 years, in the area of contextual intelligence which determines reason based on meaning of the data,” he said. “We also have personal agent software which provides preference to what you see on the screen. It’s proactive push technology that knows what’s of high interest to you.”

Sun Microsystems’ Solaris product manager James Eagleton, in addition to donating the system for the project, said Sun played a part in helping ThoughtWeb develop its technology.

“We’re always keen to help Australian software development through our iForce centre, and plugged them into the Sun network,” Eagleton said. “As the world becomes more connected, technology like this can be pushed to people in remote locations.” Eagleton said Sun has generated about US$1 million for the tsunami relief effort.

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