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Defense company to develop new crowdsourcing tech for disaster response

ORLANDO, Fla. — A Melbourne company said Monday it has landed a Navy research contract to create a "crowdsourcing" analysis system to assist emergency-response teams in disasters, crowd uprisings, fires, crimes and other crises.

The deal calls for Modus Operandi Inc. to develop high-speed software that will vet the social-networking communications from eyewitnesses and provide first-responders with "real-time situational awareness" of a crisis, officials said.

Specific financial terms were not disclosed. The deal could be worth up to $150,000, according to guidelines of the Small Business Innovation Research program. Modus Operandi is one of several companies selected to develop the new system.

"It has become clear that during recent world events, people use social media to immediately discuss what is happening," Modus Operandi researcher Teresa Nieten said in a prepared statement. "But the sheer amount of data from social media sources is overwhelming. Our system will address that issue."

The company plans to develop a "platform similar to social media" that will provide emergency commanders and crews with the most accurate and relevant eyewitness information before a response team arrives at the scene of a crisis, Nieten said.

Ultimately, a system based on the prototype developed by Modus Operandi could potentially give military or civilian response teams accurate details of what is happening "well in advance of the typical news and intelligence channels," the company said.

Modus Operandi's deal is an example of the U.S. defense industry's nascent effort to develop applications for crowdsourcing – a practice more familiar in corporate and charity fundraising, finance, entertainment, academia and the arts.

"This is a very forward-leaning project," said Eric Little, Modus Operandi's chief scientist. "It has a lot of upside in many different areas of emergency response. By developing technology to capture this kind of communication, it allows people at the scene to be part of a real-time reporting system."

In another industry crowdsourcing initiative, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced last fall it would gather input from crowdsourcing as part of developing a next-generation amphibious vehicle to replace the 70s-era vehicle now used by the U.S. Marine Corps.
 

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