Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tech Column: How A Smartphone Can Save Your Life

I thought I knew everything about smartphones' magic, but what I’m about to tell you, what these developers have thought of and created, is truly brilliant, and lifesaving.

Smartphones like the iPhone and Android have accelerometers in them, chips that detect motion. It’s through this chip that your phone can be turned into a seismograph, for example, to measure an earthquake’s strength. Pretty cool.

But here’s how these phones can be turned into lifesaving devices. If you drop the phone or fall with it, the phone will automatically send an email to whomever you designate. If your older parent or grandparent drops their phone or falls and doesn’t cancel the alert, a message goes out to you, letting you know that the phone has fallen.  The message includes the phone’s location, thanks to the phone's GPS chip.

A seismograph is cool, but this is utterly brilliant.

These apps have even more benefits:  In a car crash, the sudden deceleration will cause the phone to have the same reaction as if you’d fallen, and the app will send an alert with your location to whomever you designate. Even if you can’t make a call, your phone will send for help. It’s like having a personal OnStar system with you at all times. If you accidentally drop your phone or the fall or car crash isn't serious, you can cancel the alert manually before it's sent -- there's a time delay before the emergency message goes out. Every year over half of the population over 65 years old falls; nearly two million older Americans are admitted to emergency rooms each year because of falls.

What else can these fall alert apps do for you? If you're being threatened with violence on the street, drop your phone and the alert, along with your current location, will go out.

For the Android phone, take a look at CRADAR.  For the iPhone there's iDown and Fall Alert. You can adjust the sensitivity and the length of time-delay before an emergency message is sent out. If you fall or are in a crash, your phone will automatically call for help. If you're over 65, drive a car, or walk alone at night (I think that covers just about everyone), you should have one of these apps on your phone.

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