I remember walking around my college campus late at night, not long after campuses had begun to install the "blue light" boxes for security. Essentially an emergency phone that immediately dialed campus security, these were great if you happened to be near one. Of course, today everyone has a cell phone in their pocket. But who do you call in an emergency? More likely, who do you notify if you are just concerned, walking alone at night and perhaps not under immediate threat? This is just one problem in which EmergenSee, an app and service, looks to solve.
EmergenSee is a free-to-download app for iPhone and Android. The core product is very simple: Launch the app and begin transmitting audio, video and GPS coordinates to EmergenSee's servers, where the data is recorded. The service allows you to specify contacts so you can also alert family members or others (up to three). For US$8.99 a month you get access to a 24/7 response center, where they can coordinate not only first responders but also alert them to your exact position and warn them in advance of medical conditions. Young or old, the potential for EmergenSee to assist is enormous, as you are sending audio and video and your location to a remote center staffed 24/7 with a response team.
EmergenSee is fast. I saw video uploads that were available almost instantly, plus the "call" goes straight to whomever it needs to. EmergenSee is already in use at some schools, which can customize the system to alert the campus police. This small aspect is actually a big deal if you run any sort of institution (a hospital, college, etc.). Knowing who to contact when you don't necessarily need to contact 911 is a very big deal. Having a record of what's going on is also a very big deal, and EmergenSee does a terrific job of creating a record of events the moment you need it. Not only that, but the app will also send notifications to family members or anyone you wish when you report an incident, and it does so instantly.
Speaking of the moment you need it, those blue light phones? Studies show they aren't very effective. EmergenSee, on the other hand, tracks and records every incident and you can access those later. The cloud aspect of this is quite important, as having a persistent log of incidents could be beneficial in bullying or other scenarios.
In terms of design, EmergenSee is super simple and that's a good thing. A big red button is all you need to start an incident. Here's an instance where "widgets" or buttons for apps on the iOS lock screen would really handy. There's nothing EmergenSee can do about it on iOS (although it's possible on Android), so here's hoping Apple finally gives developers a way to allow customers to interact without having to open the phone and launch an app. In this particular case, it could literally save lives.
One feature I thought was quite brilliant, and was created because the company listens to customers, is Virtual Escort. This is a preset timer you create for an activity that will set off an alarm if you don't complete it within that time. The best example is walking to your car late at night. For late night workers, there's often the trepidation that comes walking into a creepy, half-empty parking garage. With Virtual Escort, EmergenSee immediately reports to your contacts if you don't stop the timer.
EmergenSee has many other features, like built-in messaging, a stealth recording feature (you probably don't want to go around with a bright light in your hand), and some key features for personal security at institutions.
A couple of these features include geo-fencing and mass broadcast notifications. With geo-fencing the app knows when you've wandered off campus, so if you're within the boundaries of your college, your incident will go to the campus authorities (which is a bit easier if your school happens to be working with EmergenSee). Similarly, mass notifications work if your college or business have already partnered with EmergenSee and work just like mass texts that go out when there's a campus-wide emergency.
Ideally, where you go to school or work should partner with EmergenSee to coordinate features like geo-fencing. But individuals can still use the app just as well, complete with the response and reporting. There are a variety of packages available, for personal or organizational use. If you just want the app to report to three of your contacts, that's free. The app will also upload your GPS, audio and video for free. But if you want it to also contact the 24/7 response centers, that service will currently run you $8.99 a month. Not a bad price, considering how much alarm companies charge for basic reporting.
Hopefully you can see the numerous use cases for EmergenSee. There are customers who use it for their college kids, and kids who use it to keep an eye on their elderly parents. The company has its roots in institutional use, and continues to enhance the product with unique features like the Virtual Escort. It's a free download, so check it out and see if it's for you. Compared to the competition, EmergenSee offers the best value and feature set of the bunch.