8 posts categorized "Emergencies"

April 09, 2014

5 Apps for Helicopter Parents


Remember the old days? When kids were free to run wild without their every move being micromanaged by anxious parents? Growing up in the 80s, the best a worried mother could hope for was a call from a public telephone – if the mood struck her child.

Those days are gone. Between SMS messaging, smartphones and GPS, app developers have all the tools they need to help anxious parents keep tabs on their offspring. Kids, you might want to stop reading now. Grownups, check out our top 5 apps for making sure little Johnny is as safe as houses – and your house is safe from little Johnny!


Featured on Today, CNN and Good Morning America, iCam provides you with live feeds from any room in your house, direct to your mobile device. Each room must contain a running computer with webcams and the app installed. Probably unwise to use it instead of a babysitter, but it’s ideal for people on vacation who can’t shake that feeling that the house is burning down being broken into.


The ultimate in overprotective app, Kitestring can be programmed to track your whereabouts and ensure you arrive safely at your intended destination, at the intended time. Just like a worried parent, it checks up on you by requesting a response at a certain time. If you fail to respond, the app alerts your pre-programmed contacts via SMS messaging.

FBI Child ID

Created by the FBI, this app allows parents to store ID information and photographs of their children. The stored information can be quickly access in the event of the child disappearing. Crucially, it only stores info on the iPhone until parents need to send it to the authorities. The app includes shortcuts to 911 and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Find My Kids – Footprints

In the same vein, this app gives parents real time updates on their kids whereabouts. GPS has been applied to everything from vehicle navigation to mobile marketing solutions, but this is a world-beater in terms of providing parental peace of mind. Find out if your child is travelling alone and whether they’ve arrived at a specific destination.

Txt Shield

As kids grow up, concerns about sinister abductions begin to lessen. But parents of newly-driving teens have a whole new set of concerns. Txt Shield is one of a number of apps on the market aimed at preventing accidents caused by distracted driving. The app sends automatic replies to any incoming text messages based on how fast the mobile device is moving. 

March 17, 2014

Secure Text Banking? It’s All About Checks and Balances


SMS messaging provides one of the fastest, easiest ways for consumers to stay in touch with businesses. Banking is no exception. Virtually every major US bank now offers some form of text banking.

Text banking is proving popular with a small number of customers who like to stay on top of the finances – and like the fact they don’t need an internet connection to do it. Nonetheless, as many as 51% of cell phone users think mobile banking is not secure, and the number of bank customers who prefer using cell phones to view balances and transactions stood at around 8% in 2012, when the most recent ABA figures were published. 

This reticence to engage with text banking is understandable. Fears about sending account details via text messages are not unfounded. And even just using text as one part of mobile marketing tactics that make no specific reference to an account will make some customers jittery. When it comes to personal finances, some people will always prefer the real-world transactions they’re used to.

For people more concerned about convenience than worst-case scenario cyber-fraud, SMS messaging is one of the best things to happen to banking. Apart from the improved customer service texting can offer, it’s also – whatever detractors tell you – potentially far more secure than other typed of banking. 

In response to security concerns, most banks have recently designed a whole host of precautions enabling them to minimize fraud and identity theft. Customers are now assigned a PIN they must enter to begin any particular SMS messaging session, as well as nicknames for account numbers.

Leading the way in providing greater security for text banking is Wells Fargo, who were the first bank to make the service available to all customers, even those not enrolled in online banking. Their research indicated customers want to check their balances while on the move, so they implemented a number of codes that customers could text to perform certain transactions. ‘BAL ALL’ lets customers check their balance.  ‘ACT’ tells them if a check is deposited. ‘ATM’ points them to the nearest cash machine.

The bank does not send account numbers or passwords, and their Online Security Guarantee promises 100% insurance if unauthorized activity is reported within 60 days.

Other banks have gone further. Both USAA and BOFA allow customers to deposit checks using an iPhone. Not everyone will be comfortable performing such high level transactions remotely. But for those who want that choice, SMS messaging and mobile banking is making life a whole lot easier.

February 16, 2014

5 Mobile Marketing Tips for Start-ups


Anybody who has started their own business understands the problems inherent in such a major undertaking. A paucity of resources – be they personnel or economic – can hobble even the brightest start-up. On the plus side, such restrictions can promote creative thinking and lead to untapped sources of business.

One of the most important aspects of a business plan is an effective mobile marketing strategy. Compared with traditional advertising channels like television, mobile marketing campaigns needn’t be prohibitively expensive. They just need blue-skly thinking, flexibility, and a lot of hard work. If you are in the early stages of building your business, try adopting the following mobile marketing tactics…

1. Text Smart. Despite being, by nature, always on the move, the mobile audience is captive in the sense that their phone is always about their person. By offering people the opportunity to opt in to receiving messages via SMS, you can provide the distraction they need while waiting in line or sitting alone in an airport lounge. Update user on promotions, offer them coupons – anything to make them engage with your brand. But be sure to offer something worthwhile or you risk annoying them (and prompting them to opt out). Research from mShopper.com indicates that mobile subscribers respond best to time-limited offers, so try capping the availability of a promotion at 24 hours.

2. Ground-up Optimization. Successful mobile marketing campaigns are created from the ground up, rather than operating as a hastily-assembled addendum to existing desktop campaigns. Take full advantage of the medium by incorporating functions that can only be performed using smartphones: QR codes, geo-location, augmented reality, apps. They all add to the interaction experience.

3. Trend Watch. Keeping an eye on the latest trends in mobile habits is the best way to remain relevant in a constantly-changing market. In 2012, only 17.5% of internet traffic emanated came[BC1]  from mobile devices. By the end of 2013, that number had grown to 28%. Such a staggering increase would have spelled disaster for any company who took their eye off the ball, so stay on top of the latest developments in the world of mobile.

4. Responsive Design. If you have been paying attention to mobile trends, you will have heard a lot of chatter about responsive design, which describes the automatic adjustment of the layout and content of a website according to what kind of device is visiting it. It’s a critical part of mobile marketing, as it allows all users to have a great experience, regardless of whether they are using a tablet, smartphone or desktop. Talk to your web designers about developing responsive design for your site – it could ultimately replace the current model of entirely separate designs being implemented on each type of device.

5. Test Smart. Successful mobile marketing campaigns will test their ideas thoroughly before submitting them to the world at large. It might mean using a different color palette for mobile displays, or modifying a headline so it reads better on a tablet. The scientific method must be rigorously followed, so isolate one variable at a time during the testing process. Even small tweaks can have a major impact.

January 13, 2014

SMS Texting Can Aid in Disaster Response Efforts


When disaster strikes a foreign country, people spring into action to help. Traditionally, these Good Samaritans scour the Internet for ways to donate their money, time or resources, but thanks to text messaging there is another way to quickly provide support and relief. SMS campaigns for disaster response are becoming popular in effectively get information to intended recipients in times of tragedy.

Prior to the advent of the Internet, humanitarian aid may have taken weeks, if not months, to reach communities devastated by flooding, hurricanes or earthquakes. Living in a global marketplace means that help can arrive with the press of a button. With SMS texting, concerned citizens can join relief efforts via their cell phones and make charitable contributions to victims of tragedy. Such was the case with the recent Typhoon Haiyan, a Category 5 tropical cyclone which ripped through the Philippines and caused widespread damage and loss of life.

When most people think of SMS marketing, they typically think of mobile campaigns that help foster new clientele and spread the word about their goods and services. Today, SMS texting is no longer viewed as merely a mobile marketing service, but as a useful tool to distribute aid to those in need. Many charities are realizing the benefits of mobilizing their audience to donate via SMS texting. People can contribute to relief efforts by texting a keyword to a short code and donating as little as $5 or $10 per text. The advantage of these text-to-donate programs is that donors may be on the go when they hear of the tragedy and don’t have access to a computer. Since most people carry a mobile device, SMS texting allows them to participate easily and affordably via their cell phone.

In addition to providing financial assistance to ailing communities, SMS marketing can also be used to disseminate information about the tragedy and keep users updated on new developments. In the case of Typhoon Haiyan, people in the local community were able to serve as “iReporters” and text stories and updates to radio stations in their area via SMS codes. This form of SMS texting provides first person accounts of the devastation and galvanizes others into contributing.

SMS texting is the wave of the future when it comes to aiding in disaster relief efforts. Every day people can make a difference with a simple text.

October 08, 2013

Tech Industry has a Bad Case of the Shutdown Ripples

How the political impasse on Capitol Hill is stifling Silicon Valley.


With the government shutdown now in its second week, the Treasury Department has set a new deadline of October 17 for Congress to raise the debt ceiling. Negotiations remain in stalemate. Public fear about everything from the CDC’s readiness for a flu outbreak to how well NASA could respond to an asteroid strike hangs in the air. Across the U.S. workers hold their breath. All eyes are on Washington.

The pinch is being felt far beyond the public sector. As both sides flirt simultaneously with compromise and a steadfast commitment to towing the party line, ordinary Americans are suffering. Private enterprise is bracing itself for another long week of uncertainty – and the tech industry is no exception.

As a young, dynamic marketplace, the tech sector plays a disproportionate role in job creation. If the deadlock continues, the industry will struggle to absorb the shutdown’s ripple effect, which could have devastating consequences for the wider economy . Whether you’re a bedroom entrepreneur or a blue chip behemoth, here are six activities you might want to postpone until next quarter…

Conducting Government Business

Every company that does business with the federal government will be affected by late payments, and all contractors are effectively out of a job until the situation is resolved. This will affect the big boys like Microsoft and Google, who have major ongoing federal contracts, but the impact will be more keenly felt by independent contractors providing government IT services to small businesses.

Getting Access to Public Information

The shutdown means government websites will no longer be updated, requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act will be postponed, and some public information will be taken offline altogether. The FTC is closed-for-business, so consumers cannot file complaints or register for Do Not Call. Tech firms can expect to deal with a backlog of customer queries when normal operations resume.

Applying for Radio Frequencies

The FCC website is unavailable until further notice, with potentially disastrous consequences for mobile communications companies. No FCC means no spectrum management, which means any new applications for space on the radio spectrum will have to wait until the situation in Washington is resolved. Cell phones, ISPs, tablets - all are reliant on the Office of Spectrum Management to keep the airwaves running smoothly. It’s a critical resource that has been lumped in with ‘non-essential’ federal operations during the shutdown. Don't worry - while it's bad news for anyone about to launch a broadband-reliant product, you can still make calls, send text messages and go online with your existing provider.

Starting a New Business

With the United States Small Business Administration shutting up shop, loans will be disrupted, creating yet another clogged pipeline that could take months to clear. If you’re working on a startup business plan, our advice is to wait until 2014 before applying for a federal loan.

Traveling Internationally

Tech employees who travel abroad for work are experiencing massive delays in receiving visas and passports. Some documents – such as the H-1B – will not be processed at all during the shutdown.

Going Public

Try floating your stock right now and it will capsize. All IPOs currently being processed have been halted, and new filings are banned altogether. This spells doom for the blue chip boom, as Twitter and other major tech players are hobbled indefinitely by warring politicos.

It’s not all bad news. The U.S. Patent and Trademark office remains open, and the trusty U.S. Postal Service ticks over, but the real impact of the shutdown won’t be clear until the knock-on effects kick in after October 17. Somewhat counter-intuitively perhaps, the best action plan for the tech sector is to mimic the government: keep operations to a minimum, lie low, and wait for the storm to pass before attempting to clear up.

February 23, 2010

Text Messages Are Used to Direct Aid to Haiti

The New York Times ran a story over the weekend over a different usage of text messaging related to the Haitian earthquake. The mobile donations story is important in so many ways, but so is this:

From his makeshift workstation, Ryan Bank spends hours sifting through thousands of electronic cries for help from Haitian earthquake victims, many detailing the horrors of dead family members, hunger and homelessness.

“I’m hungry and I have no one,” says one text message from a Haitian man living in a tent city with thousands of others whose homes were destroyed in the quake. “People are unable to breathe due to the smell of the dead,” says another.

Mr. Bank, a Coast Guard volunteer who runs his own technology company in Chicago, said he had received more than 18,000 messages. “Most of them are utterly heartbreaking,” he said while staring at a list of messages sent to him through a new emergency relief effort that relies on text messages and social networking Web sites to help coordinate humanitarian aid in Haiti.

Read more @ the New York Times.

May 07, 2008

Cleveland Police Launches Dynamic Text Service for Deaf Community

The innovative uses of SMS never cease to amaze us:

In keeping with its "Putting People First" philosophy, Cleveland Police has now launched a dynamic text messaging service specifically for deaf, hard of hearing and speech-impaired people. The service has been designed and delivered by mobile messaging leader Mediaburst in conjuntion with partner Teleware and successfully piloted by Cleveland Police since January 2008 with deaf people in its jurisdiction.

So how does the system work?

All that the deaf community in Cleveland Police's boroughs need do to report an incident or ask for assistance is to text the word Police to the dedicated shortcode 87202 giving their address and explanation of the problem. The message is automatically converted into email and forwarded to Cleveland's communication centre where incidents are recorded and actioned.

Read more @ TMCnet.

February 28, 2008

UK: Council sends flood warnings via SMS

Text messaging works well as an alert system during emergencies:

Oxfordshire County Council is to send flood warnings to residents via text message.

The project forms part of the council's Emergency Planning procedures and is scheduled to go live this month.

Local authorities have been told by the Environment Agency to make better preparations for natural disasters following the damage done by last year's floods across the UK.

How's this for a techno-savvy local government:

"We reviewed the use of our existing system and decided to improve resilience by introducing the text platform," said John Kelly, county emergency planning officer at Oxfordshire County Council.

"We believe it is vital that we can give warning to the public and alert our staff though text messaging."

Read the entire article @ VNUnet.