Help! app gets the word out when things get sketchy
By Ben Coxworth
January 3, 2012
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.