There’s no question that this app, funded by former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, can go a long way in improving emergency response efficiency, probably saving thousands of lives every year. Here’s how
In what is sure to be an exciting boost for the Tel Aviv based security app company, it was announced on Tuesday that Reporty Homeland Security (HLS) had received a $1 million investment from former Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Barak. Founded in 2014, the folks at Reporty are quickly carving out their place in what is a growing trend of Israeli smart city apps. Based on the crowdsourcing format, the idea behind the app is to use the power of the people to help provide information for rescue services and local government officials to respond more effectively to emergencies.
In speaking about his decision to invest, former PM and Defense Minister Barak stated that, ‘Reporty provides a response to the essential need of every person – the feeling of security based on immediate accessibility, ease of use for the emergency services, and communicating with their personal circles.’
What makes a smart city?
With the near ubiquitous ownership of smartphones and social digital participation over the past few years, there has been an explosion in the number of apps seeking to tap into the potential power of the masses. Social apps such as Waze, which was bought by Google, help drivers get to their destinations faster by not only showing them the fastest route, but also by receiving real-time reports from other users for delays such as accidents and traffic jams.
Some cities are now attempting to utilize the public to provide better services in areas such as public transit, parking and bicycle sharing. Others offer residents updates regarding special events and emergencies.
Optimizing emergency response services
Reporty is now attempting to take this increased connectivity concept to a whole new level with their app to improve responses to emergency situations. According to a release from Reporty, the average call to an emergency line takes between 2-3.5 minutes, during which the operator attempts to ascertain the details of the situation, locate the caller, and initiate an appropriate response. It is estimated that in the United States alone, some 10,000 people die every year due to the failure to locate them. Further compounding the difficulty for responders is that ER agencies report that between 20-30% of calls are deemed fraudulent, thus taking valuable time away from genuine emergencies.
The app works through the instant communication between the user and the authorities. When the user activates the app with the press of a button, a two-way video and audio link is automatically made with the operator. By speaking with the caller while viewing the situation in real-time, the operator can quickly assess the nature of the emergency as well as its credibility, and advise the caller with potentially life saving instructions. At the same time, the app uses the phone’s location services to track the user and send the response team, even if the user is inside a building.
While Reporty is expected to be an important component of ‘smart cities,’ the company says that it can be used in areas that do not fall in that category. In addition to being able to reach out to authorities, users can communicate with a ‘Guardian,’ such as a friend or family member who can help in an emergency. Reporty has stated that while information will be passed to responders for assistance purposes, users will be able to maintain their privacy when using the app.
Built by security professionals
Reporty is led by a team that is no stranger to the world of operational security and technology. The company’s founder and CEO Amir Elichai formerly led an elite unit in the Israel Defense Forces and comes with a background in venture capital projects. He brings with him Pinchas Buchris, who has served in the past at the Ministry of Defense as its director. Bucharis also commanded the IDF’s signature intelligence unit 8200. Their VP for business development Lital Leshem joins the team with experience in the IDF’s operations branch. Reporty has a strong set of tech minds, with VP for technology Alex Dizengoff coming from the Security Services’ Cyber unit and Yoni Yatsun, a veteran of the startup scene who is responsible for developing the navigation algorithms that are at the heart of the apps.
Up until now, most of the apps for emergencies like the one from FEMA have focused on officials broadcasting warnings for either natural disasters or other crises, but this is the first that offers direct communication between the user and the command center.
So far there is no word yet on when they will launch. One major question that has popped up is how they intend to guarantee privacy to users. This is an issue that they will have to answer when they get closer to their release date. Some users might be wary of being tracked by authorities, maybe even more so than Facebook and Google, which could cause some hesitation for them to download the app.
According to a statement by Reporty following the announcement of Barak’s investment, they plan to use the new funds to expand their development team with ten new hires over the coming year. They intend to focus on bringing in more talent to continue developing their mobile app and the capabilities of their service’s algorithm for improved results.
There’s no question that this app can go a long way in improving emergency response efficiency, probably saving thousands of lives every year. I love how Reporty has embraced the idea of harnessing the power of the masses to work towards the greater good and I’m excited to see how this plays out as they continue to develop.