Local governments, universities and other institutions in areas affected by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma are using software created by Grey Wall Software, a New Haven-based tech startup, to organize emergency response efforts.
A number of institutions across the affected areas, including the Texas Department of Transportation, the University of South Florida and the University of Central Florida, are using a program from Grey Wall called Veoci. The platform organizes and operationalizes all the plans and processes an institution would need to respond to a crisis in one interface. It includes an instant messaging feature that allows first responders and people across departments to communicate efficiently during crises and allows users to program response plans into the system so that they are available in case of emergencies.
A local government, for example, could input hurricane response plans for different city departments into Veoci, so that in the case of a hurricane, members of those departments could use the app to see exactly what they should be doing at every point in the response process.
One of the platform’s strengths, according to co-founder Nathaniel Ellis ’99, is its flexibility. Users have the power to customize the plans they input to their specific needs and they are able to use the platform to greater or lesser extents during emergencies as they see fit. Currently, over 150 clients, including governments, hospitals, universities, financial institutions and multinational companies, currently use Veoci, Ellis said. He added that multiple clients in the affected areas used Veoci during this month’s hurricanes.
A few clients, including the transportation department for a coastal district of Texas, used Veoci “whole cycle,” as Ellis put it — before, during and after the storm. He said several clients in Virginia, South Carolina and North Carolina were on standby, prepared to go whole cycle, but that it did not appear that the storm would pass through those areas.
Grey Wall was founded in New Haven in 2012 by six former employees of General Electric. The startup offers only one product, Veoci, which the company’s founders have tweaked, adjusted and perfected over the past five years.
Ellis said the city of New Haven was Grey Wall’s first customer, and that he and the company’s other co-founders used feedback from the city to tweak and design earlier versions of Veoci. Yale was Grey Wall’s second customer.
The mayor and other city officials attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Grey Wall’s new, roomier new office at 195 Church St. this August. At that event, Harp congratulated the company’s co-founders and employees and thanked them for their continuing commitment to New Haven. City Economic Development Administrator Matthew Nemerson, who spoke at the grand opening this August, said Grey Wall’s success speaks to New Haven’s growing reputation as a hub for creative tech ventures.
City spokesman Laurence Grotheer called Grey Wall one of the “gems” of New Haven’s growing tech startup scene. He said the city uses Veoci to respond to several kinds of emergencies, including snowstorms.
“New Haven has had a fruitful relationship with Grey Wall, and it helps that they’re a New Haven company,” Grotheer said.
Grotheer said the city likely would have activated Veoci had Hurricane Irma headed toward New Haven. But he said it became clear fairly early on that the hurricane would not come up the East Coast, so the mayor did not feel the need to finalize response plans.
City resident Joe Rodriguez said he was confident in the city’s ability to inform and protect residents during a hurricane. He said he has signed up for emergency robocalls and text alerts from the city, both of which are features of Veoci’s platform. He added that he was happy to hear that the city is using a New Haven company to better prepare itself for emergency situations.
“I think it’s a win-win for the company and for the city,” he said. “Anything that increases coordination during these kinds of situations is good.”
Irma has taken over 50 lives across the Caribbean and the U.S. and has caused tens of billions of dollars in damages.
Contact Jon Greenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org .