Sunday, October 27, 2013

Community and Personal Safety

With smartphones displacing conventional applications and tools, it was only a matter of time before new mechanisms for calling for help would emerge. I have been a big proponent of ways to augment public safety infrastructure, but nothing as simple as 911 had surfaced so far. This is changing, however.

A Perfect Storm

The power of crowds and technological innovation are the two forces converging to create a new model for personal safety. We have seen crowd sourcing, crowd funding and even crowd voting, so crowd- or more correctly, community safety would happen with the right ingredients. The technological force in this storm is Bluetooth Low Energy, a recent evolution of the Bluetooth standard that allows for devices that can stay on for up to a year.

SafetyLINK

At the forefront of this wave is SafetyLINK.org, one that I have a personal connection as CTO.

I am convinced that making safety as simple as pressing a key-fob is a game changer in how we view our personal safety. There have been many niche solutions for the elderly for quite a while, but nothing that had such broad applicability. Consider the panic button on your car key fob, which we are all familiar with, but rarely, if ever, gets used. Now imagine the fob pictured on the right that can be used anytime and anywhere, that transmits your location via your smartphone to friends, family and the authorities. This is the promise of SafetyLINK, and I think it looks very promising.

A New Public Safety Model?

The idea of private-public partnerships is not new, and I think services like SafetyLINK will accelerate them. Location services was the sole purview of the FCC when they started looking at ways to integrate cellphone GPS into the 911 infrastructure more than 10 years ago. It didn't quite turn out that way!

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