Let’s talk shop.
Gears are in motion and “protyping” is in effect right now. This is a step before releasing the actual app. You can think of prototyping as a limited representation of how the app will work and look. You’ll be able to mess with it on your phone, in a limited way, and start to get a feel for it. I’ll put it out there and you can give it a test drive… just can’t take er’ on the freeway, so to speak.
You tell us what you like/don’t like, what’s confusing, what you want etc. and we’ll build it based on the needs you express. If everyone is saying Feature A is important, it’s a clear sign we need that included in the app.
Feature A: Using people you trust for automation
Many of us already do this. We may, for instance, send someone we know our location so they know where we are. We might tell them to call at a certain time or check in with us as the date progresses. I would never try to belittle these measures; they’re totally useful. But there are definitely shortcomings. What if they are unreachable? What if we find their phone but can’t unlock it to access important information? What bars did they go/ Ubers did they take? – maybe it would lead us back to them. What if we could find out, with the users previously given permission… more.
If you’ve ever lost someone for even a short period of time, the feelings that go with that are often disabling – sometimes not being able to remember important information about something they told you. In these times of stress that sometimes leave us feeling helpless, we need to know more. We need to have the right information, right there. And not just where they said they would be. What if they went somewhere else? If your friend wants you to know these things but is unable to access their phone, why shouldn’t you be able to?
Some safety services use a call center. For 9-1-1, I think we generally trust them to do their thing really well. For a tech startup, who knows? We also come to a crossroad where accessing certain information can become very limiting. Certain things you legally can’t/shouldn’t do as a business. It also costs money to run something like that which would, in effect, cost the user.
So what can we do first?
There are some apps out already that make use of this idea. I’ve actually posted a review of some of them in a previous post. In the event that the user can’t reach your phone, a message can be sent to the people they’ve set as trusted contacts. The user sets a timer and if there’s no response it when it goes off the app sends the messages out automatically. These messages can be sent with the GPS location of the user and whatever else you’d like to include. This is square one for us as well. I think there is tremendous value in being able to set things for automation when you can’t do anything yourself. But why stop at an initial message with your location? What about 2 hours later when there’s no response? How do you figure out what’s going on? You generally don’t and you wait it out and it usually turns out to be okay. But I don’t want to not play detective with a blindfold on and I don’t want to wait around.
Think of all the incredible things your phone can do. You can activate microphones, take photos, check for battery life on a phone to see if it’s dead or just not responsive, connect to social media networks, send directions, call a Lyft, check into locations, etc.
The functionality of the app is based around this idea. The user sets a timer and automation that THEY are comfortable with. They set it for a specified time and if they don’t check in when it goes off the app automatically sends a text to a few of their friends with their location. If that’s all the information they want to give out, that’s all they turn on in the app. If they want more, they turn on additional features, gathering and delivering new information to trusted contacts as more time goes on. What would you like to happen 2 hours after there is no response? What about 4 hours? The next day?
We’ll be asking you what you would feel good about using and refining it until we have something secure, easy to use and with whatever level of complexity you prefer. One size does not fit all here for your safety. Not everyone wants to carry a handgun or taser and not everyone wants to hand out all of their information.
Let me know what you think!