Yesterday morning was very interesting and particularly reflective for me. In Maryland, our weather was sunny and bright – a fairly clear day – eerily similar to the beginning of 9/11 in 2001. So similar that as I was standing outside looking around this morning, contemplating the day, I thought back to 2001. My memories are sharp even after a decade. I remember sitting on a plane at Washington National Airport waiting to fly to Denver to attend one of our MEP system quarterly meetings. In fact, many people associated with the MEP program were making their way to Denver on the morning of September 11, 2001. I remember the fear shared as we tried to locate fellow travelers and the relief when everyone in our group was counted. I recall the struggles faced by our friends, colleagues and clients in New York and New Jersey not only on September 11th but many weeks following.
Yesterday I considered how far we have come since 2001 and recalled our strong will, not giving into fear. I reviewed the progress made even though we were tentative in the first few months after this attack. Looking back over the 11 years – we should pause to reflect not only what we may have lost but how far we have come – consider the impact of this day and where it has taken us.
So I pulled up my Google search engine to see what innovations 9/11 has encouraged. I was surprised. I did not realize all that has been accomplished; how far we have come and how we have fought back.
One article published in Fast Company titled, “Decade Of Disruption: 9/11-Inspired Innovation” authored by Kit Eaton reminds us of these innovations:
Better Skyscraper Design
The inquiry into why the World Trade Center towers collapsed uncovered a few weaknesses in the way such tall buildings were designed and manufactured in terms of both their structure and how to efficiently evacuate people in a disaster. Now buildings like the 1 World Trade Center building, rising week by week from Ground Zero itself, are designed to be much stronger–with steel floor structures that are designed to resist catastrophic collapse if even one should fail, and better protected and larger evacuation stairways. Innovations in elevator design mean that in a similar disaster, occupants of skyscrapers could take special fast “lifeboat” elevators to the ground to escape.
Airport hand luggage X-ray scanners are powerful and successful technology–every day they let customs officials prevent potentially dangerous or illegal items onto aircraft. But they’re not 100% foolproof, and their fallibility comes from their two-dimensional scans as much as weakness on behalf of operators or the security procedures currently in place. That’s something GE and L3 Communications want to change, as they’ve developed smaller versions of the CT 3-D scanning tech used in hospitals, for airport and other checkpoints. Over 1,000 of the machines are in use across the U.S. and the world, delivering scans that tell an official in much more detail about the contents of a carry-on bag–with the ability to spot perhaps disguised weapons that may elude a more traditional 2-D scanner.
Police And Firefighter Radios
One of the failings in 9/11 disaster response plans, and subsequent events like Hurricane Katrina, was that radio communications between emergency forces like police and firefighters were weak, and didn’t allow for cross-force coordinated responses. The Department of Justice has since funded technology like that developed by HCS Technologies, like Respond Comm, a system that lets all the different forces communicate with each other in a coordinated way, with much greater network resilience (including self-sustaining communications masts with solar cells and hydrogen fuel cells), and the ability to not only share voice calls but also digital data like building plans.
Military Tech: Lasers, Drones and Exoskeletons
During operations in Iraq and Afghanistan that have their political roots in the 9/11 attacks, U.S. and allied military forces have been field-testing cutting-edge weapons and surveillance systems at an almost unprecedented rate. Every conceivable device from laser weapons to seagull-like surveillance drones, to modified stealth Black Hawk helicopters to exoskeletons to give near-future soldiers superhuman-like powers has been developed and, in many cases, actually used in conflict.
These four examples of some of the most obvious innovations allow you to visualize more applications and even more new ideas. You see new market opportunities and more customers needs. I bet you can name other innovations – companies and entrepreneurs who rose to the challenge in the last 11 years — providing solutions in our most difficult times. Look around this week and share with me how your environment has changed since 9/11, what have we learned? What innovations have we discovered?