Hurricane Sandy Aftermath: The Overlooked Revolution


“There is no security; there is only opportunity.” – General Douglas MacArthur

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, fond memories are being resurrected; one of them waiting in long lines for gasoline. I recall similar times when I was much younger – riding in my grandfather’s car while we waited in line for the gas station during the 1970’s fuel shortages. On such days, he would buy a stack of newspaper and catch up on his reading, turning what would be a nerve-racking time for most folks into something he actually looked forward to doing.

But it’s more than just long gas lines we’re talking about: the (temporary) collapse of public transport networks is a development that will take months to correct fully. Understand: it’s not just that the railroad ties and tracks were washed away, entire foundations and track beds we removed, as if the railroads never existed! Add into this delicious mix the difficulties of living without electricity and the damage inflicted upon food distribution networks and you got life (as we know it) presently in portions of the United States Northeast Corridor.

No, it’s not Road Warrior / Book of Eli time, but it certainly is not all that peachy keen either. At least we haven’t resorted to cannibalism (nothing beyond the usually accepted daily limits; after all, only the strong survive in New Jersey).

Given the fact that over 400,000 people commute to and from the New York metropolitan center on a daily (work) basis, it’s forcing new notions of work and management. Humans are, if anything (at least the more successful ones) adaptable (as my grandfather, a retired Marine would tell me, ‘adapt and overcome; never let it get to you’). And there are few things as ‘encouraging’ as natural disasters which face us to deal with matters. So here are some rather notable developments which are going to become more and more mainstream:

1) Who’s needs an office? With telecommuting – Skype, Join.me, or other web services – there’s really no need to have conference rooms or regular face to face meetings, save for the rare office get togethers or perhaps to entertain the special guests. Fact is, we do far more on the jump than we ever have before and frankly, this is the future: entities save money by having smaller office space (cutting back on utility costs, rental, etc.) along with encouraging greater productivity through telecommuting. With the advent of ubiquitous laptops (remember how prohibitively expensive they were? Now they’re the primary computers of consumer choice), smartphones and the network infrastructure to support it all – telecommuting is the shizzle:

As reported in Live Science:

For one thing, hardware has changed. “Five years ago, we all had desktop computers. Now we all have laptops.” That means an employee has easy access to files and can easily move from office to home to coffee shop with minimal interruption. With Wi-Fi now available nearly everywhere, an employee can theoretically work as well at the office as at a Dunkin Donuts or a neighbor’s house. (Comcast, for example, has offered up its normally password-protected network of hotspots for everyone in Sandy’s path.) (http://www.livescience.com/24512-telecommuting-to-work-post-sandy.html?cid=dlvr.it).

Some would point out (and rightfully so) networks fail, but you’d be surprised the relative ease emergency cell towers can be established and activated – this in combination with wi-fi stations – network failure may certainly be inevitable, but unlike landline telephones, are now far more easier to reactivate (just so long as you’re not a certain major telecommunications giant working out of midtown Manhattan who arrives at the brilliant idea to store their major truck / emergency cell network service in a sub-basement five levels below street level during a major hurricane in an effort to save money as it costs more to store trucks on higher garage levels,…!).

2)  Online GIS Mapping services. Although this is nothing new (MapInfo’s Discovery application has been around since the late 1990’s) the explosion in open source GIS solutions (who needs to invest a fat wad in ESRi products when all you need is a basic and effective solution?) combined with online distribution applications creates tremendous potentials for both private and for general public access.  Let’s fact it: right about now, wouldn’t it be cool to have an app that links to an online GIS solution telling you which gas stations have gas, or where’s a functioning Wi-Fi service, or perhaps an app that can warn you about where the latest zombie outbreak is taking place and offer you suggested byways to avoid them? (If anyone is interested, contact me as I have a whole bunch of other ideas and professional contacts ready to make things happen,…!).

And online GIS goes beyond just offering temporary solutions: the marketing potential alone opens up new arenas and services. As Edward Tufte in his incredibly ground breaking works (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=edward+tufte) so aptly pointed out, it’s not just about getting the information, but distributing it – and making what you have stand out more from others.

There are few tools like online GIS which can do exactly that.  To learn more, check out this online GIS application and you’ll see what we mean: http://www.mangomaps.com

3) The Cloud is everywhere. As more and more entities (and we’re not just talking about private businesses, but also non-profit and government) are moving their services to cloud-based systems to better insure against losses (side note: insurance companies are now giving more reductions in premiums for businesses who do institute a qualified and comprehensive records management plan), while enabling greater employee data access and collaboration – not to mention allowing employees to work from a variety of locales: whoever you are, so too is your office.

In some ways, it can be disturbing: the merging of work and home life is now, more than ever before, closer together. But perhaps it’s time for folks to come to the realization that the benefits outweigh any fears or concerns. Fact is, mother’s can become more stay at home; entrepreneurs dramatically lower their costs and (potentially) can employ more workers (although it’s important to note that the traditional notion of an employee is changing; more on this in a future post,…) while continuity is better insured – a vital point for any entity, regardless if they are for profit, non-profit or government.

Hurricane Sandy’s impact is going to be around for a long time, not the least of which we can expect a growing evolution in how we do work.

Improvise, adapt and overcome: use the tools presented before you.

Oo-Ra!

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