Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Natural disaster? There's an app for that

Computerworld - As Friday's earthquake in Japan demonstrates, natural disasters happen. And when they do, the first two things to go down are electricity and telephone services.

The massive earthquake in Japan was a perfect example. Power was cut for millions of people, which meant that TVs and radios were useless for getting emergency instructions. And phone lines were overwhelmed by people trying to call each other. To keep the lines available for emergency crews, the Japanese carriers placed restrictions on 80% of the voice traffic. When most people tried to call, the lines were dead.

That's why smartphones are so useful during an emergency. They have their own batteries, and they have Internet connections that function even when phone service is interrupted. Best of all, smartphones have smart apps that can give you lifesaving capabilities.

Here are the very best smartphone apps for emergency events:
BuddyGuard. The free BuddyGuard app from MPOWER Labs is now available for iOS devices and will soon ship for Android and BlackBerry as well, according to the company. Think of BuddyGuard as a smart "panic button."

By clicking on the big button on the app, your camera will start taking pictures every ten seconds. All sounds are recorded constantly, and your GPS location is captured every three seconds. All this data is uploaded every 30 seconds to the cloud, and a link to that data is broadcast to your list of emergency contacts.

Because the data is stored in the cloud, it's still available to others even if your phone is damaged or lost.

BuddyGuard also lets you say, "Never mind, I'm OK." The function tells your contacts you're safe, and erases the data from the cloud.

Another feature lets your contacts be notified if you don't check back in. Let's say you're going to try and help someone trapped in rubble after an earthquake. You can set BuddyGuard in a timer mode. If you fail to check back in within the time you set, an alert goes out to your contacts letting them know you're in trouble, and where.

BuddyGuard also performs another neat trick. It can detect an impact, fall or a 5G stop using your phone's accelerometer. If you don't tell it "I'm OK" within 5 seconds, it sends out an emergency alert with your location.

The BuddyGuard business plan is a freemium model. The app is free. But if you upgrade to a $9.99-per-month service, the app will send your alerts to the company's International Emergency Response Coordination Center, which will decide whether to alert local emergency teams or even your national embassy if you happen to be abroad. The upgrade also insures you via Lloyds of London for up to $100,000 for search, rescue, helicopter, ambulance and even translators associated with an emergency.

Sumber: computerworld


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