Emergency responses to natural disasters could be coordinated more quickly and save lives, thanks to new software developed at Abertay University. Using home broadband routers, student David Kane’s prototype programme can ‘ping’ thousands of addresses to check whether buildings are still standing. The system shows live data on ‘safe’ areas using Google Maps. Within seconds, any disaster can be detected, mapped and its progress tracked – and support efforts targeted to the areas in greatest need at any moment. Disasters like the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan showed that coordinating responses is incredibly difficult without visual communication such as helicopters and people reporting in every location affected. Kane’s system could automate the whole process, providing a constant stream of up-to-date information. The key is the ability to measure large patterns, such as whole districts or cities knocked out and a noticeable wave effect as outages spread, rather than individual properties. Kane plans to release the code so anyone can improve the software.
For 11 days in May, job hopefuls were involved in a novel experiment in recruitment; they tweeted their application. The team behind the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games were looking for a social media manager. They want to “to turn the ‘Friendly Games’ into the ‘Social Games’ – maximising use of digital media to build grassroots support amongst key communities, creating mass awareness and conversations, and generating high levels of approval and attendance.” So, the advert said: “Over the next 11 days we’d like you to submit one tweet a day to show us why you think you’ll be the right person to take on the job of managing our social media presence. We’d like you to show us that; you know what you’re doing in the digital space, you know how to grab people’s attention, you can write well, you’re passionate about social media, you really want to work for Glasgow 2014!” The experiment was a great success, said a spokesman, and formal interviews began at the end of last month.
Being cut off from work email significantly reduces stress and allows employees to focus more, according to a new study by UC Irvine and US Army researchers. Heart rate monitors were attached to computer users in a suburban office setting, while software sensors detected how often they switched windows. People who read email changed screens twice as often and were in a steady “high alert” state, with more constant heart rates. Those removed from email for five days experienced more natural, variable heart rates. “We found that when you remove email from workers’ lives, they multitask less and experience less stress,” said UCI informatics professor Gloria Mark. She said the findings could be useful for boosting productivity and suggested that controlling email login times, batching messages or other strategies might be helpful. “Email vacations on the job may be a good idea.”