Hurricane Sandy is on the minds of millions of Americans, including mine. So far, everyone appears to be accounted for and safe in my own social network, but that sadly is not the case for everyone. In watching the radius of destruction widen, I can't help but wonder: where is the technological innovation that could save lives in a situation like this? We can point to examples: Twitter feeds have been cited repeatedly in emergency situations for sending critical alerts. GPS-enabled devices are potentially another life-saving tool, especially when frantically searching for a missing person.  But what does all this technology amount to when the power goes off?

Power Saves Lives

Solar panels also hold out the potential of saving lives, especially when electricity grids go dark. Hospitals have known for a very long time that power saves lives. That's why they have massive backup generators. But generators can only run for so long too before they literally run out of gas. In a less dire example, an East Coast colleague today, whose home has been without power for two days, resorted to running her car to recharge her cell phone battery. In receiving a brief email from her smartphone in which she described her situation, I recalled I had a small hybrid solar charger in my earthquake kit (I live in California, near a fault). My solar charger is designed to power a cell phone, PDA, GPS device, camera or other small devices that only need 1.5 to 5.5 watts.  And while there are some substantially stronger portable solar chargers on the market that offer up 1250-watts, they come with a steeper price in excess of $2,000. Technology does save lives but it is powerless without, well, power. A truly innovative company will find a way to bring this kind of life-saving power to the masses at an affordable price...and without having to hook it up to a car battery. Residents of New York, for one, would welcome that kind of news.