I have been toying with some new ideas lately and trying to focus on how I can make tech and the web do more good, thats not to say it doesn’t already do good of course. So an idea that I struck upon while thinking about the power of location, socially connected networks and the saturation of smart devices, was helpfinding.me.
what is helpfinding.me? Well, as i hope the title suggests, this will be a tool to leverage the connected nature of our society in order to try and help find missing people within the bounds of your location.
I often hear that the first 24 hours of someone going missing are the most important. This smartphone app will try to leverage that.
so here is the scenario, a family are out on the beach or at a park or at a large public event when they suddenly notice one of their children has not come back from playing. They start to look around but do not find the child. The park/beach is large, they get worried and start asking people have they seen such and such and show them a picture. This is where I envisage helpfinding.me coming in. In the simpelist way possible, a picture would be added to the app plus a brief description of clothes etc, the app would pick up location and post it to the server which in turn would post a notification to every registered device within the area. Any people with the app would recieve the notification and be able to view that someone had gone missing near them and so become more vigilant and aware, and hopefully someone would spot the child/person.
I think there are two difficult problems. The first is gaining app saturation, but this is more a marketing problem as i feel people will be open to downloading the app and and have it sit largely silent on their phone. The second problem is handling discovery. You don’t want a situation where you are sending parents/Concerned parties on wild goose chases. I envisage this problem will become easier to solve as saturation increases. A potential solution could be leveraging existing connections between people to create levels of trust. Also of course there is a group effect too; if several people report sighting the missing person in a location, the likelyhood of it being a hoax is relatively small. Also the device saturation level could be used: if there are only six devices in the area and one of them reports a sighting, then this is highly relevant. There are more things which will come to light, I’m sure. Got any thoughts on this? Please leave a comment or get in touch via @maleck13. I think its important to remember that the average person is good and is unlikely to want to cause a person extra distress by posting a false sighting.

  2 Responses to “Hoping to do some good”

  1. if the app could also send out a notification when the missing person was found, it would encourage people to look more diligently, rather than largely ignoring the missing report, on the basis that the person might already have been found.

    Also, how do you get people to install the app who would largely play the role of “finders”, for instance single people or people with no children, maybe allowing “alerters” to define a reward might encourage them to get the app, even though they know they will never use it for reporting a lost person themselves.

    • I think that alerting when found is a good point. Because the app requires only to be downloaded and opened once, for it to start working, ppl will be able to just download it and leave it. Getting people to download it is a marketing problem. Was thinking of using local radio etc to start with.

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