Thursday, March 1, 2012

SOS Mobile iPhone App

For the past week or so I've been looking through the iTunes App Store, searching for an emergency notification app. My goal for such an app would be to instantly alert predetermined persons that I am in an emergency situation. Obviously, calling 911 is the best and first course of action in an emergency. However, 911 may be of limited use from a cell phone.

In general I was disappointed in most of the apps I looked at, and even bought. I looked at a number of these tools before finding one that seems to meet my functional requirements, is easy to use, and highly configurable. I chose SOS Mobile by Sylvain Deguire. This app costs 99¢ in the iTunes store.

The initial set up requires you to set up an account on the application server. After entering your contact information, you will receive a confirmation email to validate your account. After validation, you then configure the many options. I entered three contacts to receive both email and SMS alerts. I set a 5 second delay before starting, and have the alert repeat every 5 minutes until cancelled. There are a number of other options that you may set depending upon your intended use of the app. There is also an option to send tracking alerts at a selected intervals.

Once the application is set up, it is easy to use. To activate the emergency alert you simply launch the app and hit the SOS button. Your contacts will receive an SMS with your personalized message, along with a Google Maps link to your location. The emails sent out contain links to a location map and a link to a web page with the personal information you choose to supply in the setup. When the emergency is over, you cancel the alert from within the application.

The validation process did not work for me the first time so I initially struggled with the set up. I contacted the developer and received a response almost immediately. Upon reinstalling and trying again the process worked. When one of my contacts installed the app, he also had an issue with the validation process and had to repeat the install. The developer theorized, based on an invalid URL error, that Apple was serving up an old version intermittently, and he contacted Apple about the issue. I've since installed the app on two more iPhones with no issues whatsoever. The developer was very quick to respond to my emails until the issue was resolved.

Once aspect of this app, and others that I tried, of which the user should be aware, is the possible privacy issue. To provide the desired functionality the emergency alert goes out through the provider's server. The SOS Mobile developer places a privacy statement within the app to make sure the user is aware of this. He notes that the contact information will not be used for marketing. I previously used another alert app and that developer actually spammed my emergency contacts to promote his other products. Given the responsive service I've received from the SOS Mobile developer I am confident he won't commit such an abuse.

I hope I never need to activate this application, beyond these tests that I did. However, I am comforted to know that with SOS Mobile I can easily get a distress call out to trusted friends and family, with the information they need to respond, or to contact others who can.

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