With catastrophic security internet bugs like Shellshock wreaking havoc, nude photos being stolen and leaked online in 'The Snappening' and companies quietly collecting our personal data it’s easy to forget that technology isn’t always a bad thing.
Not only does it make our day-to-day lives easier, but sometimes it can actually save lives. Just this week, a woman was plucked from the jaws of death thanks to an iPhone app...
Find my iPhone
Designed to track down your iDevice should you lose it or have it stolen, Apple’s Find my iPhone app uses GPS to pinpoint your phone’s location. You need to sign up to the app via iCloud to activate it and it will also enable you to lock your phone if its goes missing and send a message with a contact number. This means that if someone finds your phone they can call your chosen number without being able to access the rest of the phone. You can also remotely wipe all of your data if you’re worried that your phone has fallen into the wrong hands.
Police used the app to track down driver Melissa Vasquez after she’d been missing for 17 hours after her car plummeted into a remote ravine in San Jose, California. Her car’s OnStar security system sent an alert to police but it was unable to pintpoint her location. Police guessed the password on her iPad which was at her home, allowing them access to the app and a map of where her iPhone was located.
Pulse Point is a US-based smartphone app that lets CPR-trained people register so that they receive an alert if they’re in the vicinity of a medical emergency that they can help with. The alerts are sent out by local emergency dispatchers.
In September 2014, the app was used to save a baby’s life when mechanic and volunteer paramedic Jeff Olsen got an alert to say that his skills were needed at a nearby shop. After racing over to the scene, he performed CPR before the emergency services arrived.
Whatsapp is the most globally popular messaging app and is usually used to keep in touch with friends and family over Wi-Fi to avoid being charged for text messages.
The BBC is currently using the free app as an Ebola update service which is specifically targeted at users in West Africa. Updates are being sent three times a day in both English and French, and include text messages, images and audio. The aim is to make sure that the users have access to the most up-to-date public health information to limit the spread of the deadly disease.
The US government uses Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) which are sent out to smartphone users to keep them informed of extreme weather, or give them information from the president in case of a national emergency.
Local authorities also use the system to send out AMBER (America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) alerts, which are used to quickly inform the public of any abductions. These alerts were named after 9-year-old Amber Hagerman who was abducted and murdered in 1996. Names and descriptions of the abductee and suspected abductor are rapidly sent out, along with any other useful information like car registration number so that the public can help the police search. AMBER alerts are also displayed on electronic signs on the freeway. According to US government statistics, 685 abductees have been returned safely using the system.
Facebook Safety Check
Facebook has created a feature called Safety Check which enables you to check in with friends if you or they are in an area affected by a natural disaster. Developed as a result of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the feature sends a notification to your phone if you’re in a affected area to ask if you’re safe. You can simply tap to let friends and family know that you’re safe or that you're not in the area. You can also check on a list of friends who may be in danger.
Japan already uses the Earthquake Early Warning (EEW) which sends out alerts and tips on how to deal with the situation on TV stations and to smartphone users.