Mar 1, 2019
By Benjamin Danile
With a daily population of over a million, a lot happens in Denver in a day. All those people can make traveling a pain, which is why I plan my commute using a mapping app like Waze or Google Maps. These applications, which map the best way to take based on current traffic and road conditions, can make life easier or can lead us astray - like when I am running late for brunch, and my directions tell me to take Colfax, but it turns out to be closed because of the Colfax Marathon.
Apps like these are limited in the information they have and how often they are updated, which is fine when you are trying to beat the morning rush to a coffee shop. However, if you are an ambulance trying to get to an emergency or a city official during a disaster, having accurate information in real-time can be the difference between life and death.
That is where we meet the city’s Situational Awareness Tool.
In 2015, Denver’s Office of Emergency Management and Office of Special Events identified the need for a tool that compiles and displays data to help manage situations faster and allow for better-informed decision-making. This sparked the Technology Services department to create the Situational Awareness Tool, which pulls data that exist in different places and displays the info on interactive dashboards. This makes data easier to monitor, and the info is tailored to meet the needs of the various city agencies that use the tool.
The information for these dashboards gets pulled from 911 calls (emergency/traffic incidents), 311 data (residents reporting incidents like downed trees), planned road closures for special events or construction, real-time traffic updates from traffic cameras, power outages from Xcel Energy, as well as other sensors like stream gauges to monitor potential flooding. The tool pulls together all this disparate data and displays it in dashboards that are customized to show data that is most relevant to the department using it.
In the future, the tool will be designed to have interactive maps for public use, allowing residents to see how events, monitor outages or emergencies are impacting their area, and locate critical resources like a hospital or shelter. As the City of Denver continues to innovate its technology to make our lives better, we might rethink where we get our information and the role of local government in our daily lives. One day we might look to the Situational Awareness tool to find out what is happening in our neighborhood or on our commute.
Denver’s Situational Awareness tool is one part of a more significant effort to utilize data and technology to improve the health, mobility, and safety of all those who live, work, and play here (read more about Denver Smart City) These efforts ensure that Denver does not purely grow in size, but also quality of life. So maybe one day, when technology has advanced, and our city grows “smarter,” you can enter your destination in your car then sit back and relax while your autonomous vehicle takes the wheel.