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Help! app gets the word out when things get sketchy

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January 3, 2012

The Help! app will allow people who are in danger to send footage of their situation, alon...

The Help! app will allow people who are in danger to send footage of their situation, along with locational data, to personal contacts (Man being stalked via Shutterstock)

In the TV series Max Headroom, one of the sources of security for hardcore news videographer Edison Carter was the fact that his camcorder was constantly transmitting a live audio/video feed back to his co-workers at Network 23. If anyone attacked him out in the field, his colleagues would know about it, and would have the attack recorded on tape for the police. Well, given that we're now probably at about the time in history when the series was set, perhaps it only makes sense that we may soon be able to get a smartphone app that does pretty much the same thing as Edison's camera. Its working name is, appropriately enough, Help!

Users of the app would activate it simply by touching an icon on their home screen, whenever they found themselves in what could become a dicey situation - such scenarios could include being at a protest that is threatening to become a riot, being followed on the street at night, getting into an altercation with another person, or anything else that could escalate into a problem.

When the icon was pressed, the smartphone would surreptitiously begin recording audio and video, and sending it to a remote server. Once the connection to the server was broken (by the app being turned off, the phone's battery dying, or perhaps by the phone being violently smashed), an email would be sent to up to five preselected personal contacts. This email would tell them that the user possibly needed help, along with providing their last known location and a link to the stored video footage.

Because the footage would be recorded remotely, users could also use the app as a deterrent, letting wrong-doers know that their actions were being recorded, and that destroying the phone wouldn't destroy the video. Presumably, the app could also be told to "stand down" once recording, to avoid unnecessary email alerts being sent out.

The developer of Help!, Joseph Reilly, is currently raising development funds for his app on Kickstarter. He plans on starting out with a version for Android devices, with an iOS version soon to follow, if funds allow.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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9 Comments

I like Dogbert's "app" better. You point it at somebody and it blows their head up!

Grunchy
3rd January, 2012 @ 03:52 pm PST

Grunchy is right.

Kent Davis
3rd January, 2012 @ 10:41 pm PST

I have to say this looks like an excellent idea. If this could be combined with looxcie for a pov video it would be awesome. It might also be a way around having the police smash your phone when you record them in a public place performing public duty. Ive never understood why they think this is permissible. There is no expectation of privacy in that position.

Joel Joines
4th January, 2012 @ 08:32 am PST

http://www.redbits.com/iphone/sosled/

there is already a similar app

splurt
4th January, 2012 @ 08:36 am PST

Great app that has a great future.

Al Al
4th January, 2012 @ 08:19 pm PST

Already exists. Integrated into 24 hour call center for virtual body guard, emergency triage or correct 911 contact and dispatch. Call center archives all actions and histories for recovery and forward. Android, blackberry and iphone. Also includes car crash, geo centric traffic alerting, geo centric severe weather alerts, multi lingual and ready to rock. rik.warren@gmail.com

rik.warren
5th January, 2012 @ 08:58 am PST

I can see the advantage of taking away the ability of the authorities to confiscate/destroy unflattering video. For threatening situations of a personal nature, some may take comfort that the video is secure, thereby improving the odds that those who intend to inflict harm can be identified. If conveying that knowledge to the assailant is an insufficient deterrent, the question is whether your friends will have to initiate the prosectution, you being dead and all.

Bruce H. Anderson
5th January, 2012 @ 09:12 am PST

There is already a similar app and a very good one that that was just released:

https://market.android.com/details?id=com.guardmyangel

http://guardmyangel.com/

Amir Cohen
13th January, 2012 @ 11:14 am PST

While Guardmyangel and Sosled do GPS tracking, neither perform any kind of audio/video capture or upload. I'm actually surprised those features aren't widely available, or maybe I just didn't use the right search. They would be enough to take whoever provides them first to Gen2 status.

cyrnel
11th September, 2012 @ 04:21 pm PDT
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