Help Me App for Children, Adults Under Threat, in Danger or Distress
The parents of a teenager, Daniel Morcombe, who was picked up at a bus stop in the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia, and killed, have worked hard to develop and launch a 'Help Me' iPhone app for children under threat or in distress. The couple, Bruce and Denise Morcombe, spend seven years looking for their son, who just disappeared on his way home from school. They spent several months developing the app, and a suite of other information packages to reduce the likelihood that other parents and families will have to go through the same ordeal. The iPhone app, which sells for 99 cents is available on iTunes store. The apps features a panic button which, when triggered, alerts two nominated contact numbers via SMS that the person is in danger and the message includes the exact location when the alert is triggered using GPS co-ordinates provided by the iPhone.
Mr Morcombe, who helped develop the device refers to the app as a "human EPIRB device", that is a smartphone version of an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon. These EPIRB devices are used on yachts and by hikers going into remote locations. The app also includes a lot of very useful information such as helpful phone numbers, a function for recording suspicious activity, educational resources and child safety tips.
The Daniel Morcombe Foundation established by the couple and supported as a charity has devoted considerable resources to developing the iPhone application, which is the first of its type in Australia with its unique combination of features, and is possibly unique in the world. There are many similar apps in the iTune store with a range of other features, but none like this app. Similar apps have been developed for Android and Windows phones.
The app was described by Mr Morcombe as a logical progression from the lessons learned from son Daniel. Despite an exhaustive search the couple could not find anything in the market that suited and so they decided to develop their own app themselves. The device is designed for children but will also be very useful for adults who fear they are being stalked or are vulnerable.
However, Mr Morcombe noted that the device was not designed, nor could it be used as a tracking device, because the location information was only sent when triggered by the user and not in a continuous stream.
The Daniel Morcombe Foundation was working with developers to make similar app available on Windows and Android based mobile devices.
While the couple have been quick to emphasise that abduction is rare, the device provides parents with a lot of peace of mind and educates children about the dangers. The same arguments apply to the EPIRB devices which are also rarely used, but are compulsory for most boats in Australia and have saved many lives. Authorities in Australia encourage all hikers heading out into remove locations or drivers heading out into the outback to carry these devices as well. The EPIRB devices have a much greater range as they are satellite based. The 'Help Me' app obviously depends on being within range of a mobile tower, but is much more portable and cheaper.
It took seven years for some of the remains of the teenager to be found at Glass House Mountains last year. A potential offender has been charged and remains in custody awaiting trial on charges of murder, child stealing, deprivation of liberty, indecent treatment of a child and interfering with a corpse.
Although the app is designed for children and adolescents it will also suit a wide variety of other people including youth, elderly and seniors citizens, pregnant mums, shift workers who travel late at night, runners, joggers and other recreational enthusiasts, people with medical conditions, holiday makers, backpackers and for those on school camps.
- The 'Help Me' button blasts out a warning and sends and SMS text to two 'safety' numbers the user has nominated and stored. The text message includes GPS co-ordinates for the location where the text was sent from.
- A set of safety mobile numbers can be transferred from your contacts to form part of your Trusted Safety Network. These numbers can be easily found and saves time having to search through all your contacts.
- There is an easy-to-use Notes page where you can simply and easily jot down various details about suspicious people, cars etc. Simply tap the screen, add the information and save. The saved notes can be recalled by clicking on the Notes icon at the top right hand side of the screen. The notes are catalogued with all the details including time and date recorded. The notes page makes it easy to records details about suspicious cars (see the image for details)
- The app includes many Helpful Numbers that are very useful required for various types of assistance. Just tap the screen to be connected to the number selected.
- The app includes lots of helpful resources designed to educate kids and their parents on what to do to stay safe. The information is kept up to date with the latest news.
Learn more about the Daniel Morcombe Foundation and their activities and resources.
© 2012 Dr. John Anderson
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