Here at the Future Centre, a part of my research consists in investigating how the world of applications is changing our use of the cell phone and how we daily interact with people and things through network. Smartphones indeed are used – not yet in a massive way, but it’s a matter of time – as payment devices, dedicated gaming platforms, touristic guides, means to make e-commerce in mobility, remote controls to manage our domestic devices. In other words they are going to take the role of converged service-oriented devices.
That’s why I’m always very careful to experiments like the one I want to talk today. A group of researchers at the University of Queensland, in partnership with Volunteering Qld, is developing an app (expected to be ready within the end of 2011) to help people survive natural disasters.
According to Anthony Frangi, who leads the project funded through the Natural Disaster Resilience Program: “While radio and television is a traditional method for getting information out to people about emergency situations, young people aged under 25 do not listen to radio extensively and so are at risk of not being informed if an emergency situation develops.”. And, he adds, “Using existing mobile phone technology we hope to incorporate the ability to inform emergency services, family and friends where the person is located using GPS technology and allow them to also keep track of family and friends around them.”
This is not the first app that invites smartphone owners to become “first-aid volunteers” in cases of natural disasters or just giving concrete help in emergency situations, I recall that early last summer iPhone users who found oiled animals in the Gulf Coast area could take a picture of the animal and send it to animal rescue organizations using a free app developed by a team of researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.