Microsoft is releasing an application today, known as HelpBridge, that will help you alert your family when a disaster strikes. It is a being released for iOS, Windows Phone and Android today. There are two layers to this app, the first is an alert center that will send out a text message, email and post to Facebook letting your friends and family know that you are okay and also relay your last known location. This first part has been done before but Microsoft has added something that no one else has and has also made it easier to connect in more places with just one click. That second piece is to have the ability to sign up to volunteer or donate to the cause that has affected your area. Microsoft has partnered with several organizations; Aidmatrix, GuideStar, Mobile Giving Foundation, Network for Good and VolunteerMatch have all signed up. This is a great idea, and I think this technology could go even further into the alert process as the build out the product more. I am sure that they will be developing it further and I would love to see them set it up so that the app would know when your battery was running low and could send out an alert with your location so our loved ones would know where to find us in case there was a serious disaster like a powerful earthquake, tsunami or other disaster situation like Hurricane Sandy, Katrina or Irene.
"Mobile phones have become one of the key tools for people in disaster affected areas to communicate, not only with their friends, but also with first responders," Gisli Olaffson, emergency response director at NetHope, was quoted as saying in a Microsoft blog post. "The simpler we can make it for people to let others know if they are fine or if they need assistance, the more likely they are of being able to get that information out."
This is going to be extremely useful especially as it gets more developed over time and people begin to adopt measures to prepare for the unforeseen like natural disasters. It is also a smart move by Microsoft to open it up to all platforms to allow for vast adoption. I hope that more people begin to utilize these types of applications and understand that we are never able to be fully prepared for events like a natural disaster and something as simple as this can be extremely useful in emergency situations.
I know, personally, that an app like this will be invaluable considering the somewhat recent occurrence of Hurricane Sandy in my home state of NJ. When the power went out and the devastation to neighboring towns was wide spread, we knew it was going to be days before the power would return and the phones returned to normal. My family was in Florida when the storm hit so it was going to be difficult to stay in touch over the long haul and I was lucky because I was able to let them know through a quick text that I was ok and they were able to relay that to my friends and other family. There was congested traffic on the wireless networks and people had very few places to charge their devices. People were scared and weren't sure when they would be able to get in touch with everyone they wanted to let know they were okay. To have a service that will alert family to the fact that we are ok will be invaluable and the fact that all we will have to do is press one button to alert everyone will be even better!