USE CASE: Providing real-time situational information for more effective response

What is the problem?

The widespread use of mobile phones means that many people involved in disasters publish information-rich textual and multimedia messages on social media networks, often live and in situ. This data can be used to generate a situational awareness of the crisis event and aftermath, to help governments, aid agencies and other organisations to respond. However, relevant information from social media is typically unstructured, heterogeneous and fragmented over many messages, in such a way that it cannot be directly used. Processing vast volumes of social media data quickly and effectively is of paramount importance for supporting emergency crisis relief efforts.

What is the CCI solution?

HERMES is a CI tool developed by the Italian National Research Council which enriches available social media data in the aftermath of disasters by identifying relevant Tweets and automatically asking follow-up questions to garner more detailed information from the person who posted the message. It leverages the collective intelligence of affected populations and wider citizens by using social media data posted in crisis events, and applies AI to effectively process the data and maximise utility.

How is it being done?

HERMES automatically complements spontaneously published data (i.e. a Tweet) with targeted solicited data by asking the person who posted the Tweet specific questions to gather further detailed information. The system listens to a social media stream of messages related to a disaster and uses AI techniques to select a subset of relevant social media users directly involved in the disaster, from which to solicit additional information. HERMES automatically asks targeted questions to selected users, and it collects answers to those questions in real-time.

The relevant information obtained via message classification or information extraction can then be used to produce and update crisis maps, and can be shared with Emergency Operation Centers to support response.

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So what?

Results show that HERMES was able to engage far more users than comparable well-established, institutional services that seek to engage witnesses and affected populations. When compared with the USGS service ‘‘Did you feel it?’’ (a survey service that collects information from people who felt an earthquake), HERMES was capable of engaging a larger number of contributors, particularly when considering earthquakes occurring outside of the U.S. and those that may receive little media coverage. Engaging witnesses directly through Twitter led to more responses than a previous similar system that took witnesses to a separate survey.

The rich information gathered in real-time by HERMES can be used to help a range of governments and organisations understand the scale and impact of disaster, and effectively support frontline emergency responders to target relief.