Social Media goes hyper local for emergencies

For the past year, whenever my group has had government visitors to Microsoft labs in Redmond to see advanced technologies, we’ve considered whether or not to show them a demo of a particular “secret project” being developed, now called Microsoft Vine.

vineIf the group was with local or state government, or related to homeland security, or emergency responders and the like, the answer was easier, because that’s the sweet spot it’s designed for.

But I was always tempted to show it even to my federal government friends – and anyone else – just because it’s so impressive!

No more dilemma: Vine is being unveiled this week to the world, being rolled out live in a controlled Seattle beta initially. It is a very cool, highly visual, local/social networking service that adds to your Twitter-like updates access to 20,000 local media sources, along with incorporated local-government and emergency-management notification feeds from government sources like police, fire, and federal agencies like NOAA.

One of our most impressive executives, Tammy Savage, had the original idea after Hurricane Katrina and has led this important public-saftey initiative ever since.  Implementation has required an alignment of expertise in social software, new media, cloud computing and cloud services, and advanced mobile functionality. This morning the early reviews have been impressive:

Seattle Times: Microsoft Debuts Vine: Twitter + Facebook on Steroids

TechCrunch: Microsoft Vine to connect family, friends when crisis hits (good screenshots).

Mashable: Microsoft Vine is Twitter for Emergencies

Econsultancy: Could Vine be Microsoft’s first real social media hit?

Vine was initially designed and prototyped within the Windows Live team, and about a year ago was transferred into the Start Up Business Accelerator group (which sits like my group under Craig Mundie) for robust incubation - the precursor for scaling and transitioning into an existing business division for full global support. That should be happening with Vine over the next months.

vine-dashboardA tough technical challenge – though no surprise to anyone who’s worked in the semantic-analysis space – has been getting the localization to work reliably. Vine’s access to hyper-local information from mobile devices has to mesh with local news and alerts from the thousands of feeds and notification services.  We’re continuing lab work on improving the recognition and extrapolation of precise place names in unstructured text, a classic problem in geospatial analysis and software.  A review in SearchEngineLand (“Microsoft Goes Social & Local with Vine“) points out just how important the localization is, and the promise of having precision hyperlocal targeting in Vine’s social soctware:

An application that can connect with other social services, allow both sending and receiving of data to and from those services, pull in local news from media outlets and other feeds (like local blogs, say), and add local context to all of that data in the form of mapping … now that could become a very compelling tool.”

And yes, we’ve been working on the business model – a common criticism of Twitter and the like. As ZDnet reports (“Microsoft to begin public test of Twitter-like notification service“), Microsoft says ““The baseline offering of Microsoft Vine will available at no charge. Over time, you can expect to see premium services added on to the baseline offering, for a fee.”

Sign up for the beta yourself.  One thing I notice: there’s no technological substitute for some old-fashioned realities of public safety.  Vine offers a handy wallet-sized card, to print out and clip – yes kids, it’s an actual physical artifact!  And I spy with my little eye a reassuring caveat in the fine print on every page of the Vine demo, down there with the legal notice: “In case of an emergency dial 911.”

vine-card

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4 Responses

  1. I was lucky enough to see an internal demo a year or so ago. I was impressed then and even more now. This will save lives. Very, very cool and very, very important. Thanks to all the people on the team and the people working with them.

  2. My uncle helped create this, and I am very proud, I hope that it does well and wish everyone well!!!!

  3. [...] Social Media goes hyper local for emergencies « Shepherd’s Pi [...]

  4. [...] Social Media goes hyper local for emergencies « Shepherd’s Pi [...]

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