Vine, Disaster Tech From Microsoft

vine client

Last week Microsoft will started inviting users into Vine, a public-service tool that will be especially useful during disasters. In case of an emergency or everyday life, Vine will be a multi-platform, ad-free method of staying in touch with networks. Once Vine is launched it has the potential to become a very powerful communication platform. Last week I had a phone call with Tammy Savage, the GM of Microsoft’s Public Safety Initiative.

Vine’s primary goal is to connect you with a small group of people, reach them wherever they are, and allow you to determine what conditions are like where they are. Vine will do this by letting you connect to it as you desire. Initially that means Facebook, LinkedIn, email, SMS, and the Vine Windows client.

Vine has three main functions and many supporting features:

Send An Alert – You can send a message to a pre-constructed group via its own email address and SMS keyword. All replies go to the group and the messages can later be found on the group’s report.

Post A Report – You can also post to the report. This is structured info that can be shared It’s also a way to share information. You can “Check In Safe and Well”, “Report Upcoming Plans”, “Report a Situation”, or share “General Information”. Each option is associated with a timestamp, a location, and provides different data fields (for example “Check In Safe and Well” has a toggle for “Okay”/”Not Okay”; “Report Upcoming Plans” includes a date range). Tammy said that this isn’t blogging , however it seems like it will be very similar.

Research News and Safety Info – On Vine you can search for news and alerts in a geographic area. You you will be able to include GeoRSS feeds from around the web. It provides situational awareness in cases of emergencies.

Vine will need to support many different platforms. In my discussion with Tammy she said that there will be web access, Twitter integration, and access for non-Windows users and mobile users. Tammy would not make a commitment to any platform however the most logical ones are Mac, Windows Mobile and the iPhone. An API is under consideration. Right now is a time of experimentation for the group. After they see their users’ behavior the team will start making decisions about how to expand access.

Vine is a mashup made into a product. It uses a combination of eleven Microsoft services. The ones that I am aware of include: Live Search (for alerts), Messenger (for chat), Live ID (for identity), Hotmail/ Live Mail, VE Maps and SQL Server on the backend. In the future we can expect Tellme’s voice recognition to be added. The Vine Windows Client will use the new Windows 7 Location and Sensing API in the future.

Vine will not have ads. The team is rightly concerned that ads could be distracting in a crisis. Instead they will add on premium services, but their will always be a free version. I would bet that premium services will be web services (not clients). Enterprises and governments will also be interested in hosting their own version.

Vine is going to start testing in the Seattle area. I asked Tammy if this meant that there would be staged emergencies (ala Strong Angel) to test; there won’t be. Instead they want people to use it in their daily lives. Over that time they’ll see how people integrate Vine into their lives.

In times of crisis people fall back on what they know. Twitter has quite famously been used during emergencies, but it does not have all of the functionality necessary to be the only method of communication used. Vine will use Twitter’s powerful ability to to broadcast bits of information to many people from anywhere and supplement it with social networks, news reports, research ability and location-awareness. Tools like Twitter and Facebook need champions to make them suitable for disaster relief scenarios. Hopefully Vine (and InSTEDD’s GeoChat) can create a platform that can and will save lives.

For more on Disaster Technology champions watch Jesse Robbins and Mikel Maron in their talk on DisasterTech at Where 2.0.