TechWatch’s Emily McDaid is struck with admiration for an inclusive next-generation 999 app that could save lives.
No one hopes they’ll need 999. But, if something goes dramatically wrong, we trust that we can reach help with a simple phone call.
But what do deaf people do in emergencies?
E-Press has developed a non-verbal app for contacting emergency services at the touch of a button. It could make a life-or-death difference to deaf or hearing-impaired people, but it’s also useful for the vulnerable; for people with breathing problems, or even those in an abusive situation who need to contact 999 without using their voice.
An inspired young designer
Newtownabbey-based E-Press emerged in July 2014 from Becca Hume, a young innovator with a background in product design.
Hume began taking sign-language classes at age 16 so that she could communicate with a deaf co-worker at her job in M&S. She began to see the limitations of day-to-day life for the deaf.
Research into emergency calls showed that 67pc are made from mobiles, not landlines, yet the public widely relies on 999 phone calls for emergencies, and has done so since 1937.
The spark for Hume’s next-generation 999 app was ignited.
An inclusive app for all
With a TechStart POC (proof of concept) grant, the company was able to develop a working prototype, and joined the Entrepreneurial Spark programme.
E-Press also made it onto the BAPCO (British Association of Public Safety-Communications Officials) accreditation scheme, ensuring that the app passes health and safety regulations and is integrated with BT’s networks.
While the app enables 999 to be contacted with keystrokes, it also stores the user’s medical history and pertinent personal information, which is delivered directly to the emergency service along with GPS co-ordinates for their location.
This alert is sent as a data transmission. “Currently, it could reach [emergency services] as an email, but we will be working for it to integrate with their EISEC system, so it should appear to the call handler like any other alert,” said Hume.
Hume’s aim is for E-Press to provide inclusive services available for anyone to use.
“Sadly, recent events in Paris, Brussels and Orlando show situations where such an app could play a vital role while contacting emergency services without making a verbal call.”
‘Recent events in Paris, Brussels and Orlando show situations where such an app could play a vital role while contacting emergency services without making a verbal call’
– BECCA HUME, E-PRESS
An admirable team
At present, there are five people on Hume’s team, though she said they’re looking at adding another technical team member. As head designer, Hume’s experience is honed on defining the user need, while she’ll outsource the technical coding. Her team includes advisors with deep experience in data analytics and commercialisation, as well as emergency services communications.
“We are at the stage of further development, pending another funding round. We’ve earmarked a development company that has developed similar apps previously,” said Hume.
“We need to raise £150,000 to cover the cost of the app build, to take things to the next level.”
I admire Becca Hume for a number of reasons, primarily because she’s not just talking about starting something, like so many others – she has gone out and done it!
“My father is a business-owner, and that has been a big influence throughout my life,” she said. “I wanted to give it a go, now, while I don’t have any big responsibilities, to be my own boss. I figured I’d give it a shot and see where it leads.”
What’s also inspiring is that E-Press has made significant in-roads to the four emergency services: police, ambulance, fire and coast. To succeed, the team will need to drive relationships with all of these services, and they’ve had positive initial meetings with Northern Ireland Ambulance Service in Knockbracken. It’s strengthening their position greatly to be on the BAPCO Next Gen 999 accreditation scheme.
With its commercial launch aimed for Easter 2017, E-Press is now in the running for a 2016 Invent Award in the Creative Media and Consumer Internet category, sponsored by Aepona.
“All of the Invent finalists have demonstrated something of interest and worthy of being taken forward – understanding the effort required but seeing the possibility of growth and success,” said Stephen Gallagher at Aepona. “E-Press is an example of how the Invent Awards support and direct new ideas, to provide valuable products within the commercial domain.”
By Emily McDaid, editor, TechWatch
A version of this article originally appeared on TechWatch