Guardly builds mass messaging service in case of emergency

Picture this scenario: a fire breaks out in your office building, and it becomes too difficult to breathe, let alone talk to the security guard trying to reach you over your phone.

The security guard then taps into a system, locating you through an Indoor Positioning System (IPS). She then finds you and pinpoints your exact location in the building, saving rescuers from having to search every floor to find you, and possibly also saving your life.

On Thursday, mobile safety solutions provider Guardly Corp. announced it is releasing its Mobile Mass Notification System, which uses IPS as a tool to find people who have used their phones to request help. The system can narrow down specifically where those people are within a building, sending security staff updates to narrow down their exact locations. The system is also capable of sending 500,000 notifications to phones in a specific location, making it possible for security staff to send a building or campus-wide alert in case of an emergency.

“When I spent time with our customers, we looked at how they respond to emergency events. We quickly found out that location positioning, whether it’s indoors or outdoors, is probably one of the most important things that led to reduction in emergency times,” says Josh Sookman, founder and CEO of Guardly. “I thought how we could really take the power of technology and apply it [here].”

He says he expects to see more and more companies using indoor positioning as commercial brands begin to look for ways to target shoppers walking through malls and other buildings. But there are so many different use cases for a system like Guardly’s, he says.

For example, sometimes emergency dispatchers get calls from people who pass out or whose throats may become swollen up, leaving them unable to communicate their location. And even if dispatchers or security personnel can pinpoint the general building they’re in, it still takes time to comb the building to find them – something that can present a huge problem if callers need immediate medical attention.

“You can run into a pretty bad situation pretty fast,” Sookman says. “And what we’ve found using our indoor positioning plan, if you have a non-responsive caller, you’re actually able to find that person indoors, every time, in less than four minutes … in a large campus. If you’re in a hospital, and there were people actually close by on every floor, that time would be reduced substantially.”

And if security staff members want to send a mass message to people within a certain space, they can do that without having to message everyone else in the area as well. That saves people from unnecessary worry if a possible threat doesn’t affect them. To prevent overloading text-message carriers, Guardly’s system uses push notifications to notify its recipients.

Security staff can use the system to gather data on possible threats. Within the system, it filters and aggregates requests for help, messages, and photos based on their time stamps and locations, so security workers can identify where a possible threat is coming from.

Sookman foresees the system could serve universities and corporations, as well as private security operations. However, security staff and any regular employees relying on the service would need to register to use it, and employees would also need to have their phones with them if security staff were to find them.

He adds that the system only sends location updates to security staff if employees request help, meaning employees’ privacy would not be violated if they were walking around campus or on corporate grounds.

While Guardly hasn’t released exact pricing yet, Sookman says companies can subscribe to the system for less than $1,000 a month as a starting plan, depending on the volume of messages they would need to send.

The system is currently entering beta and will be testing things out with 10 companies. For companies interested in trying the service, the deadline to apply is July 5.

Guardly made the video below to show how its original app works. The app connects people to family and friends, sharing their location with them, in case of an emergency. It also provides quicker access to dialling 9-1-1.

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Candice So
Candice So
Candice is a graduate of Carleton University and has worked in several newsrooms as a freelance reporter and intern, including the Edmonton Journal, the Ottawa Citizen, the Globe and Mail, and the Windsor Star. Candice is a dog lover and a coffee drinker.

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