- Posted March 24, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
If apps can track racist graffiti, why has tech failed to find Flight 370?
The Malaysian government confirmed on Monday that Flight 370 crashed into the ocean, although recovery of the debris and location of the area of the crash still remains unspecified. The disappearance of Flight 370 caught global attention, and the frustration of numerous agencies that failed to get the fast results they wanted from all the tech carried on the plane as well as the tech carried by the passengers. When you consider that BBC has reported that Japanese activists can now track racism via Google Maps on the same day, the question is why has the gap between consumer software and public safety software become so large. The contrast between news that a free app can find where the people you want to avoid are and a multi-million dollar public safety software architecture can't track a plane with technology that wants to be found should be of concern to the public, and investors.
Immarsat reaches back to the 19th century to solve the mystery
Immarsat, the UK company responsible for providing satellite tracking services resorted to using a wave phenomenon formula that was discovered in the 19th century in order to model the potential flight paths of Flight 370 which led to the determination of the plane crashing into the ocean. None of the current satellite data, or the data that should have been recorded during the hours of the flight were available. While Immarsat has played the role of the savior in this case of forensic analysis, the question is how reliable are the government sector data services that companies like Immarsat provide? Also, if the government sector services are not up to par; what does that mean for the rest of the customers of enterprise aggregate systems of any type? Much has been made of the security of these systems, but has security revealed its fatal flaw in that it sacrifices real time accuracy when it may be most critically needed?
How Japan tracks racism through Google Maps
The same day the Prime Minister made his pronouncement on the demise of Flight 370, BBC released a trending report that activists in Japan were using Google Maps to track racism. Independent users can log on and record instances of racist graffiti that are pin flagged to a publically shared map. Users can also delete pins when the graffiti is removed as well as verify the accuracy of the initial report. This type of community mapping uses the connectivity of the Internet and its broad reach to generate as much real time data as possible without the fear of a power interruption (ref: ups centrale termice). The information does have its percentage flaws, but it has a recovery and reconciliation rate that would shame most government and private statistical aggregators.
A question for investors
For investors, and for consumers, the question that Flight 370 and the mapping activity of the Japanese activists brings to the fore is whether or not lifting a ban on cellphone usage in flight is a matter of public safety. If the proprietary and secure satellite systems are not capable of providing real time information, perhaps turning towards a crowd based app is a better way of tracking flight passage. With more individual unit sources of data brought into play, tragedies such as the mystery surrounding 370s disappearance and the trauma it caused their families could be avoided. As well the re-allotment of monies and rethinking of the nature of public security may cause many burdensome budgets to be lightened significantly.