Taiwan Professor Releases One-touch Disaster Alert App

University researchers in Taiwan have released a mobile phone application that with one touch can transmit to any number of people the location of users trapped in earthquake rubble or under mudslides, the professor behind the project said on Wednesday.

The app transmits the latitude and longitude coordinates of people stranded in disaster areas, said Liang Chih-hsiung, assistant professor of multimedia and gaming development at Lunghwa University of Science and Technology.

It went on sale in mobile application stores on Tuesday, following the massive magnitude 9.0 earthquake in Japan last week, Liang said.

Users anywhere can download Mobile Savior for US$2.99 in English, Chinese or Japanese. All proceeds from sales of the app will go to victims of the devastation either through Japan's foreign ministry or a Red Cross chapter, Liang said. The first installment will be paid out within a month. Thereafter, money made from the app will go to reconstruction and housing for people displaced by the temblor or the resulting tsunami.

The application works by taking location data from a mobile phone's built-in global positioning system and sends it as a request for help to emergency service phones as well as to family members, or whichever numbers the user programs in.

"This project was my idea, because Taiwan has experienced earthquakes and mudslides where we can't find people," said Liang, who developed the application with four of his students. "With one touch, location data can get out, and maybe that would save your life. If you were crushed but still alive, someone can still find you."

Other inventors have developed emergency locator mobile applications, he said, but none use a single touchscreen button or are sold as widely.

Taiwan's last major earthquake killed about 2,400 people and injured 11,300 in 1999. Almost two years ago a typhoon on the island triggered mudslides that killed hundreds, with search and rescue work set back partly because authorities did not know where the victims were.

The new mobile application can also work during abductions or other situations that are impossible to escape without help.

Liang said it was too early to tell how many people had downloaded it so far.

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