(I am on the board of Råd AS, a company that has developed the platform SmartHelp for Norwegian emergency services, allowing shared situational awareness, communication and privacy. The company is now seeking customers and collaborators outside this market.)
Smarthelp is a platform technology consisting of, at present, three elements: Smarthelp Rescue, an app for iPhone and Android that allows users to transmit their position to an emergency service; Smarthelp Decision Support, a decision support system which allows an operator to locate and communicate with users (both with the app and without), and Smarthelp Secure Infrastructure, a granularly encrypted communications platform for secure, private communication.
Use case: Locating employees in a crisis.
When a crisis hits, one of the most demanding issues for an organization is to determine whether any of its members are affected by the crisis, and in what way. At present, most organizations to this by having lists of employees and calling them up. This is slow and ineffective – when Norway was hit by a terrorist bomb in the Oslo city centre in 2011, it took one of the largest newspapers in Norway more than two days to locate all their employees – many were on vacation or travelling for other purposes. Most of the employees were, of course, just fine, but the company still had to locate them all. In such a situation, knowing who is not in danger quickly is very important, because it lets you concentrate resources on those who need help.
Smarthelp Decision Support, the emergency service communication platform, allows an organization to quickly – within minutes – determine where its employees are and whether they need help. Smarthelp does this while maintaining privacy of the individual employee.
Imagine the situation: An event (terrorist attack, industrial accident, public transportation accident) of some proportion happens. Many people are hurt, lots of rumors abound, emergency services are responding. Almost immediately, the question arises: Are any of my employees affected by this – and do they need help?
Most large organizations have a system where employees register where they travel on business. For this service to work, the employee has to remember to update it, though for some companies, this happens automatically if they purchase their tickets through a specific travel agency. While this may help, people travel for pleasure, deviate from their itineraries, forget to register their travels, and purchase their tickets from the cheapest, rather than the official source. Consequently, nobody knows where they really are.
SmartHelp Decision Support (see picture) allows the company to set up a geographical area surrounding the event, and contact all their employees (based on lists of telephone numbers) to determine whether they are inside this area or not.
Here is another example: You are responsible for security in a large company facility – say, an office building. The company receives a bomb threat which necessitates evacuating the building with thousands of employees. If the employees have SmartHelp on their phones, you can communicate with them all, and determine whether they (or at least their smartphones have left the building (limited by GPS accuracy). You can define a rallying point or area and get an automatic message as soon as someone enters the area, allowing you to quickly determine who is not accounted for. (If the positioning is good enough – and it is possible to link smartphones to WiFi-zones – you could actually as “who is left in the building” and get an accurate answer, both in terms of who they are and where they are.
Another advantage is information: In the November 2015 terrorist attack in Paris happened, there where (as is usual) lots of rumors circulating in the hundreds of thousands of Twitter messages and other social channels. With SmartHelp, the authorities would have been able to send targeted messages to specific areas, conveying a precise and autorative message across a cacophony of noise and misinformation.
SmartHelp works anywhere in the world where there is mobile reception (I have used it to signal my position to my host in Shanghai, for instance.) Privacy is handled through an ingenious cryptographic architecture that is secure and fast – the platform is certified for the medical information under the Norwegian data privacy laws, among the strictest in the world.
(If you want to see how the system works in a 911 central situation, see this video: