IBM taps social media for disaster communication

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IBM taps social media for disaster communication

Researchers aim to mine Facebook, Twitter for information.

IBM plans to provide social media monitoring solutions for emergency services within the next 18 months, in a bid to improve communications during natural disasters.

Glenn Wightwick of IBM's research and development lab in Melbourne looked to "virtual integration" of information as one of several data sources during a disaster, in addition to official services, broadcasters and telcos.

Mining information from Facebook and Twitter during the situation would allow emergency services and police to locate potential victims and map the spread of a natural disaster over a given area, Wightwick said.

"This is a challenging problem," he said at the vendor's Pulse 2011 conference in Melbourne this week.

"Amongst all of that enormous volume of data is important information but there is also a lot of noise, so part of our research is going to be, 'how do I integrate these different streams of data in real-time'."

Natural disasters were flagged as one of three key areas of focus for Melbourne lab, established in October last year with an aim to train 38 doctorate students over the next five years.

Wightwick said IBM had chosen to focus on natural disasters following the Victorian Black Saturday bushfires in 2009.

Another key focus was natural resource management, for which IBM planned to develop high performance computing processes for Hunter Valley-based resources company Orica mining services.

The Federal Government pledged $22 million over five years toward the centre. The lab is expected to separate from its co-located lab on the University of Melbourne campus next week.

James Hutchinson attended the Pulse 2011 Conference as a guest of IBM.

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