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9 months ago

GSN Magazine June 2016 Digital Edition

Convy on Net-Centric

Convy on Net-Centric Security New Mobile Technology for Disaster Response By John Convy, Convy Associates, Washington, DC When disasters and conflicts take place, communications and power infrastructure can be severely damaged or rendered nonexistent, and must be restored as vital components for response and recovery. Government, aid agencies, and NGOs are increasingly depending on digital communications to deliver food, shelter, medical aid, and conduct searches and rescues. Surprisingly, some people displaced by disasters are initially more concerned with communicating with friends and family than receiving food or water. In our ultra-connected world, mobile connectivity has become a basic and essential human need. When disasters bring down critical infrastructure, first responders now rely on many new forms of mobile technology. Mobile seems to improve and advance on a monthly basis, along with a fast-growing demand for instant and accurate information for billions of people worldwide. The mobile industry is responding with a dramatic surge in new tools and inventions. One of these that I happened upon recently is a text messaging, contacts, calendaring, and task management With Gyst, an incident commander, first responder, or disaster service worker can communicate, collaborate, and coordinate with anyone, anywhere in the world who can receive SMS or MMS messages. app from a startup in Austin, Texas, founded by former Dell executive Bruce Kornfeld. Named Gyst, Inc. (gystapp.com), the company is funded by angel investors, including former BlackBerry board member Jim Estill. Kornfeld told me that Gyst is designed to be a powerful productivity tool for professional and organizational communications that he hopes will revolutionize in-the-field emergency and disaster 26 Bruce Kornfeld response, and make disaster service workers better connected and more effective. “There is a growing need for specialized text applications to help in disaster response situations, because it’s common for wireless voice communications to be down, but for data to still be up,” Kornfeld explained. “If voice calls are impossible, as long as an SMS or cellular data connection is available, Gyst can function optimally.” At its core, Gyst is a productivity and organizational tool. But, because of its unique capabilities, I think it may find a place among disaster response organizations, by positioning itself as a useful means of fast, global communications for both agencies and individual users. “Gyst has the ability to operate anywhere in the world, and connect with any user who has a cellular data connection. It helps

organize and unify groups of users, even those who are not using Gyst, because the app can communicate with anyone who can receive SMS or MMS messages. You can use it to manage and track texts with anyone for productivity-focused messaging on any mobile platform,” Kornfeld added. Gyst is fast and easy to install, with a lightweight footprint, and strong security for disaster operations, according to Kornfeld. “We follow industry standard encryption for any documents or videos flowing through our cloudbased servers, meaning that even non-Gyst-app users benefit from our data security filters,” he said. “When information is shared between two Gyst users (G2G), that information follows a fully encrypted communication path on a 4,096-bit channel.” With Gyst, an incident commander, first responder, or disaster service worker can communicate, collaborate, and coordinate with anyone, anywhere in the world who can receive SMS or MMS messages. Other Gyst highlights include message flagging for prioritization, text message inbox organization through labeling, calendar integration, and the ability to send any document or video over SMS text messaging via downloads from Gyst’s servers. It also supports the creation of communication groups, which allow people to communicate with each 27 Photo: Kurt Barnhart other without a limit on the number of individuals in the group, and provides the ability to share locations displayed on Google Maps. The capability to send a series of videos or still photos in the aftermath of a disaster could help dispatchers assess a situation and deploy resources to the areas where they are needed most. The ability to pinpoint a user’s location, or to send instructions on where water, food, and aid should be delivered, is an obvious benefit in search, rescue, and recovery operations. These functions make Gyst something that should be evaluated by federal, state, and local governments, I believe. Kornfeld described the inspiration for the development of Gyst. “We recognized that smartphone users were increasingly preferring communications via the written word rather than voice calls. Email and text messaging represent a huge percentage of both personal and professional communications today, and while email technology maintained pace with this movement, text messaging has not always kept up. We developed Gyst as a tool to make text messaging more functional and effective.” It is easy to see opportunities for applications like Gyst in the converged security space. The power to connect public safety personnel and first responders with the general public, other involved agencies, and associated organizations for planning, early warning, and crisis response scenarios has obvious benefits. As mobile continues to establish itself as the first choice for disaster management and response communications, merging the roles of information and physical security can help unify organizational management, and create better prevention and response strategies for government agencies at all levels. More on page 43