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Death & Technology: IT Only Works if You Use It

Right now is the most peaceful period in human history, and yet calamity still strikes. But while we can’t stop an earthquake, we can prevent more tragic train derailments and plane crashes. According to Steve Andriole in an article for Forbes, all it takes is a little IT. But first, everyone needs to get serious about using IT right in the first place:

We now know about the “systems” designed to prevent disasters. After a major disaster, we’re all told about the technologies that should have been deployed, that would have prevented death, disease and destruction. Most of the time, the technologies are tried and true: they work. Some of them are expensive and some are inexpensive. But there’s always money enough for something else, isn’t there?

The Biggest Risks of All

Andriole decries the lack of technology spending on what he views as easy fixes that would save people their lives and companies their budgets. For instance, the PTC, or positive train control, was first slated for implementation on the Union Pacific Railroad in the 1990s. This digital safety system might have saved the lives of passengers aboard an Amtrak train that recently derailed in Philadelphia – had it ever been used.

A second case and point is that of the “Uninterruptible Autopilot,” a technology designed to guide a plane safely to a designated runway in the case of an emergency (hijacking, sabotage, passenger disturbance, etc.). The safety system was in its prototype phase in 2006, the brainchild of both Honeywell and Boeing – 2006! That’s nearly a decade ago. The recent pilot-induced plane crash into the French Alps is a testament to the lost effectiveness of such a system.

Technology Spend Saves Lives

Where are these technologies when we need them? Andriole chalks it up to bureaucratic institutions ignoring total cost of ownership (TCO) and return on investment (ROI) in favor of politically motivated solutions. Death and tragedy are expensive, and execs would do well to remember it the next time they review a proposal for technology spend.

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About Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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