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Palantir's terrorist-tracking technology used for Hurricane Sandy relief

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Hurricane Sandy
Hurricane Sandy

Disaster recovery groups still have a lot of work to do in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, and one of these volunteer organizations has optimized its efforts using software from a company called Palantir, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. The software allows relief coordinators from Team Rubicon to track their volunteers using GPS, upload geo-tagged photos for reference, and determine which areas are most in need of assistance using demographic, census, and poverty data combined with damage reports.

Palantir — aptly named after the seeing stones in Lord of the Ringsgained prominence in the past several years not for designing disaster-relief systems, but providing US intelligence with software to track ally troops and suspected terrorists. The company's software, which is used by the US Defense Department, CIA, FBI, Army, Marines, Air Force, NYPD, and LAPD, brings together disparate points of data that could take an ordinary person years to connect.

Team Rubicon and Palantir representatives first connected in August at an awards ceremony, where Team Rubicon expressed interest in using the company's software to analyze and organize their volunteer base. Once Hurricane Sandy hit, Palantir's Jason Payne said Team Rubicon's efforts "became an alpha or beta run" to apply the system in a disaster-relief situation. After this seemingly successful test run, the platform may become more prevalent in the near future — Payne told Bloomberg Businessweek that others like AmeriCorps, AmeriCares, and Points of Light are also interested.