News of the death of Whitney Houston, the Boston Marathon bombings and the raid on Osama Bin Laden were all tweeted before traditional media picked-up on the stories.
With over 350,000 tweets sent per minute, by people all over the world, all going about their everyday lives, breaking news can show up on Twitter immediately—far quicker than it can take a journalist or public safety agency to show on scene.
News agencies, for example, are “unlikely to have journalists pre-positioned,” Tom Glocer, former CEO of Reuters said in a recent blog post about how social networks are breaking news faster than traditional ones.
Power of Twitter
There are ways that an enterprise can leverage the power of Twitter, and get alerts about news that affects it, faster than from traditional media sources.
One simple way to track incidents is with keyword-based searches in any Twitter client.
A search for the hashtag LARain, during a rain storm in Los Angeles will collect all of the tweets on the subject—it’s raining, quick, cover the pool.
But that method is not very efficient—you’ve got to know what incident you’re looking for, its hashtag, or you have to monitor known sources relevant to a geographic area.
Other problems with a manual search is that there’s no constant heartbeat. In other words you’re not continually monitoring the temperature of public sentiment around a facility, for example.
Mashing-up key tweeted words, like “bomb” or “riot” with mapping is a better way of doing it, according to one software maker.
IDV who makes enterprise risk-visualization software says its product, Visual Command Center, which combines data from external sources, enterprise systems, and internal devices such as cameras is the best way to create a real-time operating picture of risk and security. It uses Twitter too.
IDV’s software creates an “actionable” map- and timeline-based mashup of known intelligence, such as weather radar, disaster and terrorism reports, and other current events. It uses existing government earthquake alerts, traffic cameras and other sources.
One of its modules is a Twitter mining tool that it merges into the other intelligence.
IDV uses the geocoding found in tweets, along with pre-selected, automated keyword searches to display uncensored, real-time results on a world map. It also shows a timeline.
Enterprise subscribers can drill-down in the map to visualize what’s happening around a facility. It says its system is better than traditional intelligence.
“Any number and combination of words and phrases can be entered into the system, along with a configurable distance from a company’s employees, facilities and other assets,” says Ian Clemens, CTO of IDV Solutions, writing in GeoConnexion International magazine.
The enterprise’s assets are placed on a global map, and data, including images from Twitter is then shown in relation to those assets.
Alerts about incidents can be delivered by e-mail.
IDV’s isn’t the only solution. Other Twitter-mining tools are available from other publishers. Dataminr for news specializes in alerting journalists to incidents, for example. It also has a finance, and a public sector product that focuses on disasters, transit disruptions and so on.
Banjo is another provider. It organizes trending news and events by location.
Twitter mining does appear to work, according to the makers. During recent civil unrest in London, where the IDV Twitter module was used, the tool provided a “clearer picture” of what was happening on the ground “faster than traditional media,” IDV’s Clemens says.
People tweet from accident sites and traffic jams, demonstrations, and disasters zones, IDV says on its website. They report at a micro-level, from downed trees to power outages.
Those reports can be about events that directly affect enterprises and their assets, and that data can be scraped, and used as intelligence using software like IDV’s.
With his tools, users can take “quick action to mitigate” impact, Clemens says.
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