Real time warning about local dangers

City Alert is an alert system that informs residents about dangers in real time.

By
October 29, 2011 23:52
4 minute read.
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iphones R 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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An interactive municipal alert system that informs residents about dangers and simultaneously receives reports from the field has been developed by local company. Called City Alert, the device was developed by the startup company eVigilo. It is aimed at protecting human life and efficiently and speedily putting emergency preparations into effect using cellular and regular phones, computers, social networks, email, street signs and more.

Information can be sent in real time to residents according to their geographical location, according to eVigilo. This is aimed at minimizing panic in the population.

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Residents are able to receive reports individually and directly from the municipal information center, thus helping them to follow instructions and cooperate with the authorities.

Guy Weiss, the company’s CEO, said recently that the system, which will be presented at this week’s ISDEF security technology fair in Tel Aviv, increases the public’s feeling of security. Each family can receive a push-button device to be used if they are in danger or have been affected by the emergency. Dozens of delegations from around the world are due to be present at the fair at the Tel Aviv Exhibition Grounds.

The company, described as the most advanced in the world in developing warning solutions and information dissemination in emergencies, has been chosen by the Home Front Command to develop a national alert system that integrates the radio, TV, cellular phones, sirens and Internet. It includes the use of a wide variety of sensors as well.

OPTIMISM VS. REALITY

For some people, the glass is always half full. Even when one’s sports team has lost ten matches in a row, one might still be convinced it can turn things around. So why, in the face of clear evidence to the contrary, do some people remain so optimistic about the future? In a study published recently in Nature Neuroscience, researchers at the Wellcome Trust Center for Neuroimaging at University College London show that people who are very optimistic about the outcome of events tend to learn only from information that reinforces their rosetinted view of the world. This is related to “faulty” functioning of their frontal lobes.

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People’s predictions of the future are often unrealistically optimistic. A problem that has puzzled scientists for decades is why human optimism is so pervasive, when reality continuously confronts us with information that challenges these biased beliefs.

“Seeing the glass as half full rather than half empty can be a positive thing – it can lower stress and anxiety and be good for our health and well-being,” explains Dr.

Tali Sharot of the Wellcome Trust Center for Neuroimaging. “But it can also mean that we are less likely to take precautionary action, such as practicing safe sex or saving for retirement. So why don’t we learn from cautionary information?” In this new study, Sharot and colleagues have shown that our failure to alter optimistic predictions when presented with conflicting information is due to errors in how we process the information. Nineteen volunteers were presented with a series of negative life events, such as car theft or Parkinson’s disease, while lying in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner, which measures activity in the brain. They were asked to estimate the probability that this event would happen to them in the future.

After a short pause, the volunteers, who saw a total of 80 such events, were told the actual average probability of this event to occur. After the scanning sessions, the participants were asked once again to estimate the probability of each event occurring to them. They were also asked to fill in a questionnaire measuring their level of optimism.

The researchers found that people did, in fact, update their estimates based on the information given – but only if the information was better than expected.

For example if they had predicted that their likelihood of suffering from cancer was 40 percent, but the average likelihood was 30%, they might adjust their estimate to 32%. If the information was worse than expected – for example, if they had estimated 10% – then they tended to adjust their estimate much less, as if ignoring the data.

The results of the brain scans suggested why this might be the case. All participants showed increased activity in the frontal lobes of the brain when the information given was better than expected.

This activity consists of the active processing of the information to recalculate an estimate. However, when the information was worse than estimated, the more optimistic a participant was, the less efficiently activity in these frontal regions coded for it, suggesting they were disregarding the evidence presented to them.

Commenting on the study, Wellcome Trust neuroscientist Dr. John Williams said: “Being optimistic must clearly have some benefits, but is it always helpful? And why do some people have a less rosy outlook on life? Understanding how some people always manage to remain optimistic could provide useful insights into happens when our brains do not function properly.”

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