The Social Sensing project derives from the observation of a new disorder affecting a large percentage of social platform users, the so-called “Social Network addiction”: a kind of addiction which induces one to be permanently “connected”, updating and controlling one’s profile non-stop.
Why not exploit such a compulsive use of social networks profitably? Thanks to this phenomenon, which mainly regards Twitter users, it is possible to earmark and analyze events arousing social concern such as, for instance, earthquakes or floods.
In this kind of situation, users behave as veritable sensors, or – to be more precise - as “social sensors”: contents shared on the social networks contain a massive quantity of data, which is useful to assess the consequences of an event in the area it affects. This information, published almost in real time, can be useful also for rescue teams and help them promptly reach the localities struck by natural disasters.
Researchers of the Institute of Informatics and Telematics of Pisa are currently working on a “Social Sensing” platform prototype that is able to provide decision-making support in dealing with emergencies, while analyzing in real time the information shared by Social Media. The first version of the prototype is now ready: EARS (Earthquake Alert and Report System) can detect earthquakes by analyzing Twitter data by promptly notifying the event to a list of users with a summary report of what has happened.
At the end of the two-year long project, in the specific case of earthquakes, it will be possible for the INGV (National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology), Civil Defense or the Police to use the platform. Even citizens themselves will be able to access a prompt information tool in an emergency situation. The results of the analyses will be made available on the following website: www.socialsensing.it