In an emergency situation, like an attack, you are more likely to have your phone in hand than any other device that could help you. Although the phone could be of service, fumbling for the proper keys could be impractical and wastes valuable time for contacting emergency responders.
With this in mind, Peter Cahill created a new app -- LifeLine -- that allows you to contact help simply by taking your thumb off the smartphone's screen.
"Becoming a father changes your perspective on things," said Cahill, founder of Clandestine Development, LLC, which hosts the app. Cahill, who was an investment banker for more than a decade before creating the app, said in an interview with TheBlaze. He added that sexual assault statistics, and fear they would only get worse, are also part of the reason he began looking into creating a personal safety app. He also noted, on another personal level, that his 13-year-old niece had experienced an attempted abduction on the walk home from school.
"We really think we can make a significant chunk in the reductions of rape," Cahill said of the app.
The app, which is now available for iPhone and Android smartphone devices, when engaged senses the user's thumb on the screen. The second that thumb is removed, a countdown begins during which time the user could enter a deactivation code for the app, should it not really be an emergency.
Cahill calls this the "dead-man's switch," saying if you were attacked, your thumb would naturally come off the screen. Even if the phone were confiscated, once the app has been activated, there is no reversing the process without the proper code.
After seven seconds without a code, an alarm will begin to sound, and when the countdown ends the app's response verification center will be contacted. This center will call the user asking if they're in an emergency.
Knowing that an attacker could coerce the user to saying he or she is fine, the app also has a silent alarm code. By providing this code instead of the proper deactivation code, LifeLine knows the user is in an emergency -- even if they can't say it. At this point, LifeLine calls the local 911 dispatchers who respond via GPS coordinates to the phone's location. Likewise, if the phone isn't answered, the same procedure would occur.
Cahill said the app is unique in contacting local 911 dispatchers directly, noting it shaves off 45 seconds of response time.
App Advice, which recently conducted a review of LifeLine, points out the usefulness, compared to "panic apps" that have to be opened to activate the alarm:
Lifting your thumb is a more likely response in a life threatening situation, rather than sliding to unlock your phone, possibly entering your passcode, and finally getting to the app. Even if you put the app on the first screen, you’re not guaranteed the phone will unlock to it.
LifeLine can also be activated on a timer schedule when the user may want some security for an extended period of time, but wouldn't necessarily want to have to hold his or her thumb on the phone's screen, say, an hour-long run as an example. After setting the timer, if not disarmed with your security code, the alarm will go off and perform the same steps described above.
Watch how the app works:
The app itself uses Microsoft's Bing maps for GPS tracking, which only takes place when the app is engaged. Cahill felt Bing's maps were the most precise for locating users when necessary.
"We chose Bing because it has 3-dimensional view," he said, noting it will be able to pinpoint emergency responders to someone trapped in a ravine or slumped against a tree.
The app also created patent-pending technology for thumb release detection called "Intellitouch."
“Intellitouch technology is the process of placing the thumb on the touch pad, and the app arming and preparing to respond to the emergency through natural human response," Cahill said.
Cahill said there have already been two instances where emergency responders have been sent to users issuing the signal for help. He also said there has been 14 hours of recorded "thumb time."
Tracking these analytics and other meaningful data, Cahill said he hopes he'll be able to create map showing trends where people feel they need extra security by seeing where the thumb sensor is most engaged.
"This is an app that will actually make a difference," Cahill said.
The annual subscription fee for the app is $21.99. Although many are accustomed to free or apps cheaper than this, Cahill points out that he consulted with a marketing firm for what to set the price at. Their advice based on market research of customers asked how much they would pay for the app was $79.
"I said guess what, I'm not going to do that," he said, noting that he wanted the app to be affordable so essentially anyone who saw value in it could afford it.
Find more information about LifeLine here. The app will be coming soon for Windows devices.