Tuesday, 20 February 2018

A brave new world

It was an exciting week last week, not just our Full Council meeting where we approved our budget for the year ahead. It was quite an action packed meeting aside from the budget with a nod to the hundredth anniversary of women’s suffrage and a visit from some of our fire fighters to show us their new 32 meter aerial platform – a ladder which can extend a ladder and fire fighters up to great heights to rescue people from buildings like blocks of flats or direct large quantities of water onto a fire from above.

However another part of the day was the delivery of the first West Sussex drone. Now you may well wonder what we, in local government, need with a drone?

For me this is a real example of how we can take advantage of new technology and equipment to make a real difference to people’s lives.

So this new drone could be used to carry out surveys on our buildings, which can be quite an expensive and lengthy process. A drone can fly over a roof taking clear pictures in order for us to see what needs to be done or not.

The drone has a heat sensor so in the event of heathland fires our fire crews could use them to get on top of problems quickly or prevent fires spreading or could be put to use surveying solar farms to check all the solar panels are in order.

One place they could be used which really struck a chord with me, if we have someone who goes missing, perhaps through ill health such as dementia, a drone is a quick and easy way of getting out to look for them; much easier than, for example a helicopter or extensive police searches. Just imagine the positive impact that could have on the person who is missing but also on their family.

A few of our Fire and Rescue staff in our Technical Unit have carried out the specialised training to fly our drone and know how to use them in a range of applications. Currently there is further legislation about drone usage going through parliament which will help us in how we use the drone effectively and efficiently for the benefit of our tax payers.

Thinking about technology leads me to another area which my colleague Amanda Jupp, Cabinet Member for Adults explained at the council meeting.

She described her experience of trialling virtual reality headsets – a headset which puts the person wearing it into a computer generated world where you can programme whichever scene works for you. These are being trialled in our day centres. Research has found that such technology can have a significant beneficial effect on people suffering from dementia. By putting on a virtual reality headset they can go to the beach or the countryside, all without leaving their armchair! This triggers happy memories and can make them feel calmer and happier without the often worrying and frightening journey which they find difficult to deal with. We are looking at whether this, and other new technology, could support us in what we do here – it’s early days but I find it extremely exciting.

The application of modern technology is changing every day, more people use and experiment the more uses they find. We can all feel slightly threatened sometime by the speed and advancement of technology. However where we can see really positive outcomes it is up to us to explore how we use this innovative  technology for the benefit of our residents.

It’s a brave new world and I, for one, think that’s a good thing!

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