Crisis Response Management System application is inspired by our personal experience. Cyclone Amphan had landfall on May 20, 2020, which devastated our city, Kolkata and many areas in West Bengal, India. People were struggling with basic utilities. The communication system got so badly damaged that people couldn't communicate with each other for confirming their safety. No voice call was working. People were able to perform limited communication over SMS text. Though SMS provided very limited capabilities but it offered critical help to confirm people's safety during a crisis situation. All this happened amidst of COVID situation when organizations were already struggling with distributed workforce management. Virtual Assistance would have provided more assistance to the general population when people were isolated by physical space. We realized SMS is the only channel that is available in all types of phones(simple to smart) and attracts immediate attention. Thus, it is the most preferred channel for crisis-related communication.
What it does
Crisis Response Management System is a Pega Powered Emergency Assistance and Crisis Management application. It is assumed that employees including field executives are using Pega based application for performing business functions. Geolocation tracking is enabled within the application. The application securely stores the last-known locations of the employees.
The application provides option to the Emergency Response Team to monitor potential disaster alerts which may need attention. For any critical alert, SMS notification is sent to the Emergency Response Team(ERT) who can create Emergency Response Request if need. In Emergency Response Request, team can add impacted area details which will be used later to find impacted employees by looking up last known location repository. Then Emergency Response team can send SMS alerts to the identified employees.
Employees need to respond to the SMS sender with their safety status. This response will be picked up by an Intelligent Virtual Assistant which engages with the sending person to understand his/her status in a better way and offer additional assistance as needed.
How we built it
We have enabled geolocation tracking for all the Pega application users. The last known geo-location is stored securely in a repository. We are then calling OpenCage Geocoder API to convert geo-location data into address information. Application internally matches these addresses with disaster-affected areas to find potential impacted employees.
Application is integrated with Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System(GDACS.org) to get near real-time disaster alert.
The application uses Twilio SMS API to send alert to the emergency response team if any high alert comes in.
We have built SMS Channel using Twilio Webhook for bi-directional conversation using SMS. When any user replies to the message sender then Pega IVA is triggered. IVA sends back appropriate replies over the same channel. IVA internally creates different cases based on the response received from employees.
Challenges we ran into
Again the most challenging part was to find an infrastructure for distributed development. Internet connectivity was badly affected by Cyclone Amphan and it was not restored properly till early June. We couldn't make progress as planned.
Secondly, we struggled to find existing SMS based channel as Tropo service was sunset. Eventually, we built our own SMS channel using Twilio.
Third, this is our first application on Cosmos theme. It took little time to learn tips and tricks to build application using Cosmos.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We have built several component applications which work in harmony to offer the business benefits.
Twilio SMS Channel - We couldn't find any dedicated SMS based IVA channel in Pega Marketplace. We have built this channel which can be utilized by any application as component and use it for omni-channel experience.
OpenCage Geocoder API - We have utilized OpenCage Geocoder API for map integration. This a good alternative to the Google Map API. The integration is created as form of component application and any other application or team can very easily reuse it.
We are really excited about the demo video which we created. The entire video was created using MS PowerPoint. We didn't have access to sophisticated editing tools and screen recorders. However, these challenges couldn't limit our creativity.
What we learned
We have learned how Multichannel Case Processor (MCP) works in Pega and how to extend it for new channels. We have practiced building micro applications as components for better re-usability. We have mastered the art of working collaboratively,specially when people are separated by physical space. We now know how to use commonly available tools in the most optimized way to achieve extraordinary outcomes. Additionally, we learned many tips and tricks of MS PowerPoint, TTS, etc.
What's next for Crisis Response Management System
This is a prototype build but has infinite potential. The application can be integrated with different public alert systems using the Common Alerting Protocol(CAP) to access the disaster alerts and redistribute the workload to have minimal impact on business services.
The virtual assistant channel can be expanded via other popular channels like Facebook, Twitter, Email to offer more connectivity options.
The application can be exposed via API to be consumed by others as SaaS services. The application, currently, has few service requests which need to be extended based on actual requirements.
Release 1.2 - July 20, 2020
- User Interface Uplift
- REST API for external applications for reporting geolocation data
- Implementation of Notification channel for outbound SMS