It is amazing how in early December, you wouldn’t read any flood news at all – the next week, and ever since, it is almost all that is in the news and our twitter feeds are awash with alerts, warnings and heartbreaking stories from those affected. The floods that affected the UK after Storm Desmond (a name that would grace a character from any U.S. law drama), have tested the resiliency of some areas to the absolute limit, sometimes beyond.
What happens at the moment
Warning map for Storm Desmond
When there is a forecast for heavy rain for any area in the UK then a resiliency team is usually activated who will try to work out which areas may be affected and deploy resources accordingly. Usually this is done on the basis of local expertise and known trouble spots.
The problem at the planning stage is that the forecast for rainfall is not particularly granular and the effects of localised rainfall on a particularly area is not usually well known. This can lead to poor planning decisions being made, not through any fault of the operators but because there are too many variables.
At the service delivery stage it is often a case of first come first served. At best case, some of the resources are diverted to known break points which are likely to be at severe risk. In the worst case, essential resources are deployed in inappropriate locations where those resources have little chance of making an incremental improvement in the outcomes for those affected.
KnowNow have been recognised by the Open Data Institute as Open Data pioneers. Our Flood Event Model was developed solely with Open Data sources and still achieves 85% accuracy in predicting where emergency resources should be deployed in during extreme weather conditions.
So the open data world pats itself on the back by learning that the UK Cabinet Secretary Francis Maude is releasing more open data. This is brilliant news for both the Open Data community and for us as citizens. Even better news from a KnowNow perspective for our own open data project WudoWud is the release of new Environment Agency datasets on realtime flooding.
I am however, still not happy. I ask myself why the open data community is still looking at open data in an Everest like awe? We seem to be taking the mountaineers excuse for climbing a mountain, vis-a-vis the riposte to the question “why did you climb that mountain?” Is often answered “because it is there!” In the open data context we seem to still be focused on doing something with data because it is available. What is missing though in the open data domain is confidence in sensible measurable value. A real reason for taking advantage of open data. So what is the answer?
Project Pods is a very exciting new concept being led by KnowNow information. The project is all about connectivity, relevance, content and local growth. It will also be the birth of the KnowNow Information ‘kn-i platform’.
In terms of connectivity we are enabling free urban wifi. As long as you are on the ‘app’ and near our access point you are in the kn-i connected ecosystem. In terms of relevance, this is all about the user. Making sure we understand what the user wants, what the user will allow and how will all parties benefit from sharing details about where someone is and what they may wish to do. With regards content, we are providing trusted & personalised information, entertainment, Infotainment and hooks to continually use the service. Finally in terms of local growth, we will generate local employment and local economic activity.
Whether You Do Or Weather You Don’t. Or WUDOWUD. Eh?
The British Isles has a tempestuous relationship with the weather. Enough different types of weather hit these shores and more extreme weather seems to be the new normal. So what? Well, what if you could take advantage of our growing accuracy in weather forecasting to respond more pro-actively to a pending weather event? What if you know that by being smarter about how you respond to the weather means you can save money, time, resources and possibly even a life.
Southsea Seafront Storm Copyright G. Emson Kindly used with permission
After all, the destructive impact of a single event can cause millions of pounds worth of damage. The impact weather has on our landscape in terms of felled trees, flooding and icy roads has been with us since time began. With climate change the incidents of extreme weather are likely to increase in frequency as well as ferocity. This is not avoidable.