Researchers from the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands have created Twitcident, a framework for filtering and analyzing tweets to crowdsource information about crises. For the past ten months the system has been in testing as a support program for the Dutch police and fire department.
The team began by connecting Twitcident to the Dutch emergency broadcast system in order to ascertain when an emergency had taken place. Once an emergency had been flagged, the system began to search Twitter for related tweets. An algorithm then filtered tweets to extract the relevant data, presenting valuable information to emergency services in realtime.
While it sounds extremely promising, it's not clear how the algorithm works, or how effective the system really is, but the team will present its research at the World Wide Web 2012 conference in France next week, so hopefully we'll find out soon. A beta version of the Twitcident website is currently taking applications from public safety services that want to try it out.