12.5 C
New York
Saturday, May 30, 2020
Home News Team Rubicon is revolutionizing disaster response. Microsoft wants to help

Team Rubicon is revolutionizing disaster response. Microsoft wants to help

In 2018, natural disasters ran amok.

Deadly tsunamis battered Indonesia. Destructive hurricanes walloped the south. Wildfires, once seasonal in California, engulfed the state, leaving more than 1,650,000 acres of scorched earth in their wake and resulting in a cool $16.5 billion worth of damage.

This year hasn’t proved much better. Heavy rains and tornadoes have battered the midwest and Hurricane Dorian, one the most powerful storms ever recorded in the Atlantic, pummeled the United States after having totally leveled portions the Bahamas a week prior.

The numbers may seem bleak, but the response to such catastrophic events has been anything but — just ask any volunteer serving with Team Rubicon: a disaster relief non-profit that recently partnered with Microsoft’s Tech for Social Impact initiative to make disaster response more efficient.

From small to seismic

In January 2010, a devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Port-au-Prince, Haiti, injuring hundreds of thousands and rendering 2.3 million people homeless. In the aftermath, two marines — including Team Rubicon CEO and co-founder Jake Wood — gathered a small crew of veterans, medical professionals, and first responders to provide aid, focusing primarily on at-risk populations and those most vulnerable; the same primary demographic the Los Angeles-based organization serves today.

Team Rubicon

A name was adopted. A loose mission statement was crafted.

In the decade since, however, Team Rubicon has gone from a team of eight volunteers to one of 100,000. Operations ballooned following Port-au-Prince, Hurricane Harvey, and the 400-odd other natural disasters the team has responded to since its inception, but the infrastructure and technology necessary to properly maintain, train, and oversee volunteers — 70% of which are military veterans — couldn’t keep pace with the non-profit’s explosive growth. The team managed donor initiatives and volunteers using a series of platforms, often free and cobbled together, but it lacked efficiency, and the data didn’t transfer between systems.

We got by, but it certainly wasn’t working the way it should have.

As Team Rubicon’s Chief Information Officer, Raj Kamachee would know. While the team was assembling volunteers during Hurricane Harvey in 2017, he witnessed the pitfalls of such as a system first-hand as the team worked to sift through a database of nearly 75,000 volunteers.

“We were struggling to pump through as many volunteers as we could,” Kamachee told Digital Trends. “It took three or four volunteers sitting behind a desk manning a Google Sheet to send a single volunteer into the field.”

With Harvey, Team Rubicon still managed to place more than 1,500 volunteers on the ground in Texas and Louisiana, each with their own unique set of skills and qualifications catered toward various rescue operations. Other operations followed the initial batch of volunteers, but the time-consuming nature of the work highlighted a growing need for change. Rescue operations were the beginning, after all. Damage assessment, debris management, and rebuilding would come later.

“We had issues with our volunteer management system and what qualifications our volunteers had,” added Art delaCruz, Team Rubicon President and Chief Operating Officer. “We got by, but it certainly wasn’t working the way it should have.”

An (in)efficient system at work

On the surface, Team Rubicon’s volunteer management seems rather straightforward. When a military veteran, first responder, or civilian signs up to volunteer with the organization, they undergo a vetting process before becoming deployable, which includes submitting themselves to a background check. They must also take an introductory course that establishes the history of the non-profit, as well as two FEMA courses outlining the Incident Command System, a standardized hierarchy that details how various government and non-government agencies should interact with one another when responding to a disaster.

Onboarding volunteers is part of the process, however. Getting them into the field is a different kind of beast.

With each incident, there are multiple facets to consider, each of which impacts the eligibility of a given volunteer. Factors such as proximity to the event and how recently an individual has deployed come into play, as do current and future availability. Skillset is an even bigger component, especially given that each scenario requires a different set of qualifications. If Team Rubicon is deploying volunteers for search and rescue efforts at the onset of a disaster, for instance, they might need those with a medical background, whereas other callouts may require heavy equipment operators or volunteers who can work in a senior leadership capacity.

It took three or four volunteers sitting behind a desk manning a Google Sheet to send a single volunteer into the field.

“When you have 105,000 volunteers and as many as 66 operations in a given year, you have to understand where the volunteers are at, as well as the disaster,” said delaCruz. “We also have to think about what capabilities or skills are inherent to the personnel responding and what kind of capacity is available. We need to find all those things and this was literally done through manual work.”

Enter the Microsoft accelerator

Earlier this year, Microsoft’s Tech for Social Impact initiative debuted version 3 of its Dynamics Nonprofit Accelerator, a suite of tools designed to provide non-profits with the kind of insight necessary to achieve their goals. In many ways, Team Rubicon was an obvious candidate for the program. The organization was consistently hitting new milestones and increasing outreach, yet also being hamstrung by consistent software limitations.

“We saw a team with the organization and courage — maybe even the audacity — to try and reinvent themselves,” said Justin Spelhaug, Tech for Social Impact General Manager. “The team wanted to reach a new level of scalability where they were deploying a much wider range of disaster response.”

For Team Rubicon, that meant a software suite that provided both out-of-the-box functionality and a range of custom solutions. With the Dynamics, data is no longer aggregated via four or five different sources, allowing for great transparency overall and streamlining disjointed processes that hindered the previous system.

The Nonprofit Accelerator also makes use of artificial intelligence to sort volunteer qualifications, availability, and other metrics vital to deployment. The non-profit is currently only implementing it in select cases (Team Rubicon can have as many as 10 ongoing operations at once, including ongoing efforts in the Bahamas) but the future ramifications could be profound. The burgeoning technology may allow the team to easily mobilize three times as many volunteers as it did during Harvey, freeing up additional resources in the process.

With that also comes greater ease of use, something Wood believes will help with retention, particularly among younger volunteers and those who’ve grown accustomed to the expediency modern technology often provides.

Before we ever had a conversation with them, we made a choice to try and leverage technology to help us scale as we push the limits of what’s possible.

“We have to eliminate the friction in the volunteer experience,” explained Wood. You can apply for a mortgage at a stoplight with your thumb. You can order a pizza from Dominoes and track its progress as it makes its way through the oven and to your door. Our volunteers, a lot of them are millennials or digital natives. You only get one maybe two shots with a volunteer because their time is too precious to be wasted.”

If all goes well, both delaCruz and Spelhaug hope the technology can be introduced to other disaster relief organizations and other nonprofits, including that fall under Microsoft’s Tech for Social Impact initiative. Organizations like the Salvation Army and UNICEF may not leverage machine learning or artificial intelligence to the same degree as Team Rubicon, but they can surely benefit from a software ecosystem that plays to their strengths and pursuits as an organization, many of which Spelhaug believes are centered on the most important issues of our times.

“We really believe that, with the people we have and our approach to innovation, a byproduct has to be that other non-profits can use the tools we build,” added delaCruz. “In the end, it’s for everyone.”

Interested in learning more? Check out the Team Rubicon’s website, where you can donate, become a fundraising partner, or sign up to volunteer in one of several ways.


Android 11 event and beta postponed: ‘Now is not the time to celebrate’

"We'll be back with more on Android 11, soon."What you need to knowAndroid 11 has been delayed.An event and beta

How much data does video streaming use?

When it comes to internet usage, video watching is one of the main interests of users. Most users are mainly inclined towards streaming videos so it matters a lot to know how much data is required for it. Of course, we do require a smooth internet connection to be able to stream our favorite content online.If video streaming is your preference then you must consider high-speed internet like Spectrum internet for instance, that do not offer data caps. This means you do not have to worry about any extra fee surprises in your bill that are bound to happen if you run out of your data limit. Most of the providers in the United States do impose data caps so it is very important to find out an internet plan that assures a no data cap policy. For that, let us first have a look at the data that is needed for various video streaming platforms.YouTubeJust like using any other app on your smartphone, YouTube being one of the popular platforms needs data too. It nearly takes 562.5 MB of data per hour. This holds valid when you stream at around 480p resolution. In case you want better resolution, then you might require 1.86 GB per hour for 720p. For 1080p you might require 3.04 GB. For watching videos in 4K, you will require a massive 15.98 GB of data per hour.NetflixWe all agree with the fact that how much we love Netflix as it has successfully evolved as one of the most popular video streaming services. For subscribers exceeding 130 million, the internet speed is not much of a problem. An hour of video streaming in standard definition would need around 1 GB of data. If you want to enjoy high-quality video streaming, you might need up to 3GB. For ultra-high-definition, you can require up to 7 GB of data per hour.The selection of accounts can help you decide a suitable resolution for your connection. If you want to save your data, you can check the settings option and click the save button when you want.Amazon Prime VideoAmazon Prime Video was launched by Amazon as a streaming service in 2011 and has ever gained popularity among the users. Nowadays it is seen as one of the biggest competitors for Netflix. This service provides up to three resolutions for the users. Among them include good, better, and best. The Good enables streaming videos at around 480p in standard definition and utilizes a data of 800 MB per hour. The Better option allows an HD stream with a data requirement of around 2 GB per hour. The Best option consumes nearly 6 GB of data per hour. You should also know that accessing Amazon Prime Video on your mobile app results in low data consumption as compared to the desktop app.HuluHulu is another important video streaming option that uses somewhat less data as compared to Netflix and Amazon Prime Video This makes Hulu as one of the most economical options available. You require around 680 MB per hour of data for the standard definition. If you switch to a 720p high definition setting, the data requirement may jump to 1.3 GB per hour. 1080p resolution can need data up to 2.7 GB per hour. You can also stream live TV if you are using Hulu’s $39.99 monthly plan.SpotifySpotify is one of the best-known music streaming platforms but not everyone knows that it also provides a video service in certain areas. The company does not disclose much about the data requirements of the video streaming service. However it only notifies that video streaming requires more data as compared to music streaming and is much like the ones needed for other video channels. Mostly the videos are in high definition and can consume up to 3 GB of data for an hour streaming.VimeoVimeo does not have any details regarding data usage. The standard definition content can need up to 353 MB of data per hour. As far as the HD videos are concerned, they need up to 2.75 GB per hour.StanMany of us might not have heard of Stan as it is accessible in Australia only. The app usually provides four-tier quality. The lowest standard definition setting can require up to 1.13 GB per hour while HD and 4K can require around 3 GB per hour and 7 GB per hour respectively.DirecTVThe DirecTV website also does not display clear information about the required bandwidth. In case if your provider puts a data limit, you can always reduce your video quality. The data consumption parallels to the aforementioned video streaming platforms.Sling TVSling TV is another one of the highest quality video streaming service that uses around 2 GB per hour of data for its highest quality option. The data required for medium quality is 540 MB per hour that further lowers to 360 MB per hour for low-quality streaming options.Summing UpYou need to be aware of the data consumption involved in the video streaming service you are using. This can save you from exceeding your data limit and paying any additional cost.EDITOR NOTE: This is a promoted post and should not be viewed as an editorial endorsement.

This portable UV-C wand sterilizes your items and work space

In an age when cleaning wipes and hand sanitizer aren’t easily found, it’s a little tough to keep your personal items and space clean. Not wiped down and washed, but free from germs and bacteria.Rather than fighting your way through a store to find only to find out there are no wipes left, take a smarter approach. The SANITECH UV-C Wand, on sale for just $72.99, is the sort of thing you buy once and get to use over and over. Try that with those Clorox Wipes.About the size of an electric toothbrush, the SANITECH UV-C Wand emits a UV-C light that kills 99.9% of germs and bacteria within ten seconds. It cleans all sorts of surfaces, including clothes, bedding, phones, keyboards, laptops, and more. If your hands touch it, you can probably clean it with the SANITECH UV-C Wand.FeaturesUV-C light kills 99.9% of germs, bacteria, & viruses within 10 secondsChemical-free for your safety & can be used on baby products, cosmetics, pet supplies, on home and public spacesLasts up to 90 minutes w/ full chargeBuilt for travel & convenienceBuy it NowPurchase the SANITECH UV-C Wand for just $72.99, a savings of 18% off the normal $90 price. Choose from Winter White, Flamingo Pink, and Seabreeze Green.Best SellersEarn Credits!For every $25 you spend in the AG Deals Store you get $1 credit added to your account. And, if you refer the deal via social media or an email that results in a purchase, you’ll earn $10 credit in your account.First Time Buying?If this is your first time buying, you are also eligible for 10% discount! Just be sure to subscribe for email updates.Free StuffNot looking to spend any money today? No worries. You can still visit the AndroidGuys section for freebies and pick something anyhow.

How to set up a Messenger Room in Facebook Messenger

With the launch of Messenger Rooms, you can now participate in video calls from the comfort of your smartphone and without any extra apps.If you’re using WhatsApp, Instagram, or Messenger, you can now make a virtual room and invite your friends in a matter of seconds. This saves you the trouble of installing extra apps like Zoom.Today we’re going to look at how to set up a Messenger Room in Messenger.How to set up a Messenger Room in Messenger – The easy wayThe only real pre-requisite here is having the latest version of Facebook Messenger installed on your phone from the Google Play Store. Download it here.Step 1Tap on the People tab at the bottom on the Messenger app and choose to Create a RoomAt the bottom center of the screen, you will have the option of Share Link. Tap on it.With the Who Can Join, you can also control who joins the Messenger Room if you wish to keep the room exclusive to friends, family, etc.Step 2Copy the link in the box and paste it to the group or people you wish to share it with. They will also need to have the Messenger app installed and on the latest version of the app for it to work best.You can share the link via any app or medium you wish, but whoever has access to the link can join your room, unless you modify the Who Can Join settings in Step 1.From here, you just wait for your friends to join and carry out your business. When you feel the room has met its purpose, you can close the room by tapping on the X button at the top right of the room.Leave will mean that the room will still be there to return to for anyone who has the link. End Room will close the room and make the link invalid. This means you’ll have to make a new room if you do End Room here.We also wrote a guide on how to start a Messenger Room from WhatsApp. The feature will soon go live on Instagram globally, so be sure to look out for that as well!If you’ve used Messenger rooms, let us know what you think of it in the comments section below!