Vancouver startup offers high-tech solution for emergency crises

VANCOUVER - When Stanley Cup rioters rained chaos onto Vancouver's downtown core in June 2011, holes were exposed in the capabilities of police trying to stop looting and arsons.

See Full Article

Communication between police was so bad that teams deploying tear gas accidentally dispersed crowds into streets being cleared by other squads. Radios were so faint that many officers relayed messages on foot.

It took police over four hours to curb the destruction, which spurred more than three years of investigations and prompted about 1,260 criminal charges. Detectives collected 5,000 hours of digital video that was examined by 50 forensic analysts over two weeks at an Indianapolis laboratory.

All the effort, cost and injuries could have been minimized had a high-tech solution been available.

A technology startup based in Vancouver gathered the findings from police as it pioneered cutting-edge software to address crises.

The CommandWear Systems' platform has been piloted and used by several police and paramedics agencies across Canada since the company was launched in June 2013.

"These organizations spend thousands of person-hours and millions of dollars investigating and trying to stitch together what happened. We record everything," said CEO Mike Morrow, who has worked with emergency responders for 26 years.

"What the situation looked like at any time, it's all there. They can play it back like a movie."

Instant replay is just one feature of the system that pairs a mobile app with a smartphone or smartwatch to receive vibrating text messages and keep track of each emergency responder.

Back at the command centre, the officer in charge can watch team members moving as colour-coded dots over a map on a tablet or laptop.

The system also records pictures and videos that can be posted to a timeline in real time.

"In the past we've been doing this with Velcro on a board - you lose a piece of Velcro and you've lost some personnel," said Rene Bernklau, president of the Canadian Association of Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive Technicians.

But that's not an issue anymore with a system that captures everything digitally, added Bernklau, who teaches international medical teams how to respond to terrorism.

"You never lose anybody and you have full recall of the event," he said. "It's as simple as wearing a watch and having a cellphone. I think it will become the new norm."

In British Columbia, the RCMP has acquired CommandWear for their emergency response teams.

Morrow said the RCMP connected with his company because of two critical incidents: the shooting rampage through Moncton, N.B., in June 2014 that killed three police constables, and the fatal shooting of a Canadian soldier at the National War Memorial in Ottawa in October 2014.

"Now they're able to know where their team members are to communicate with them to keep them safe," Morrow said.

The system has been used by Vancouver police during summertime fireworks competitions, a tradition that draws 400,000 people to the city's beaches.

Ontario Provincial Police and the Toronto Police Service used it to co-ordinate and track their teams during the 2015 Pan Am Games.

The Ottawa Paramedic Service launched the system to comply with new worker-safety legislation, deploying the technology during July's Canada Day celebrations and the Ottawa marathon.

The B.C. Ambulance Service and B.C. Pavilion Corporation used it together during the Grey Cup. The ambulance service also harnessed its power to locate a lost child during the 2014 Santa Claus parade in Vancouver. Photos of the child were circulated immediately to staff throughout the enormous crowds.

An event medical services firm called Rockdoc Consulting co-ordinated about 100 staff members mingling with 100,000 concertgoers at the Pemberton Music Festival in July.

"Our dispatcher could see, 'Oh oh, I've got team Alpha and Bravo both at the medical tent. Well, I'd better bring Delta over from the far side to the middle so they can respond if there's another call,"' said RocDoc president Samuel Gutman.

Privacy issues have been raised by watchdogs over police departments' growing use of body-mounted cameras for officers. Morrow acknowledged CommandWear takes tracking to the next level.

But he said the public should consider that they're already being tracked by Apple and Google through their smartphones.

"People need to realize there's a lot of surveillance around us, and at the end of the day that should make you feel safer. That should not scare you."

Bernklau said that as the technology improves further, it could be used in facilities from daycares centres to old-folks' homes.

"I think this type of technology is going to expand very rapidly," he said. "Everybody should be paying attention."



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • Rare weasel species makes a comeback in Washington state

    Tech & Science CTV News
    MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK, Wash. -- The elusive weasel-like mammal poked its head out of the wooden crate, glanced around and quickly darted into the thick forest of Mount Rainier National Park -- returning to a landscape where it had been missing for seven decades. Source
  • Explosive advances in DNA testing raise hope, ethical questions

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A Calgary author and university professor says advances in DNA testing available to the average person are taking off, but alongside that comes ethical questions Canadians will be forced to address. Tom Keenan, author of Technocreep and a professor of environmental design at the University of Calgary, says genetic testing has come a long way. Source
  • Killer whales eating their way further into Manitoba

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The food chain in Hudson Bay is drastically changing as killer whales take advantage of less sea ice and eat their way into Manitoba, a researcher in Arctic mammal populations says. Steven Ferguson, a researcher with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the University of Manitoba, will be presenting his findings in Winnipeg this week at ArcticNet 2016, the largest single gathering of scientists focused on the rapidly changing Arctic. Source
  • New Hampshire seeks answers behind oyster outbreaks

    Tech & Science CTV News
    DURHAM, N.H. -- For the past 25 years, researcher Stephen Jones has tried to understand the threat that bacteria may pose to oysters in New Hampshire's Great Bay estuary. He often couldn't get funding to study the problem. Source
  • Oldest zoo gorilla doing well after biopsy before birthday

    Tech & Science CTV News
    POWELL, Ohio - The oldest known gorilla living in a zoo is doing well after a surgical biopsy ahead of her 60th birthday on Dec. 22. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium said Saturday that veterinarians successfully removed a mass under the gorilla's arm that recently started causing her discomfort. Source
  • Friendly moose befriends 2 cows on Vermont farm

    Tech & Science CTV News
    SHELDON, Vt. -- A Vermont couple has chased off a moose that appeared to be bonding with their two cows on a Sheldon farm because they didn't want it to get injured, stuck in their barn or damage their fences. Source
  • Scientists gathering in Winnipeg to focus on 'complex' changing Arctic climate

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The largest single gathering of scientists focused on the rapidly changing Arctic gets underway in Winnipeg on Monday. ArcticNet 2016 will see 800 scientists from across the country gather at the RBC Convention Centre to present research on a wide array of subjects impacting the health of the biology and the physical systems of the Arctic. Source
  • Apple founder street name shakes Paris suburb to the core

    Tech & Science CTV News
    He changed technology and how the world communicates. Now, five years after he died, Apple founder Steve Jobs may be remembered in another way -- on a Paris street. "Rue Steve Jobs" is among names shortlisted for one of the new roads in the French capital's southeastern 13th arrondissement that will lead to a new incubator for hi-tech start-ups. Source
  • A sound investment for Lamborghini fans

    Tech & Science CTV News
    The Ixoost EsaVox Speaker system is inspired by a Lamborghini's quad exhaust and ventilation set up and comes with the automotive marque's seal of approval. Like the most exclusive and most extreme cars in production, the Ixoost EsaVox is hand crafted in Italy. Source
  • A planet's worth of human-made things has been weighed

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A new report has calculated the total mass of all the technology humans have produced, everything from buildings to cars and computers, and found it is an astounding 30 trillion tons. That is more than the total amount of living matter on Earth. Source