Inspiration

A couple weeks ago, a threat aimed at our university caused us to ponder current safety protocols and what would happen in the event of an emergency. Some students weren't even aware of the threat as they hadn't seen the e-mail. We felt that today's technology could empower us to react better to emergency situations, and we decided to prototype some of our ideas at YHack 2015.

What it does

SafetyNet provides an infrastructure for "networks" (college campuses, hospitals, corporate offices) that allows both members and administrators to communicate rapidly and make informed decisions in emergency situations, preventing injury and even saving lives.

In an emergency situation, dispatchers can activate the emergency alert system, which gives a high-level overview of the situation and the location of all members of the network. The dispatcher can send out specific alerts that will reach members in just seconds, and the system will automatically calculate the fastest route to safety for each member, even when typical routes may be blocked or otherwise dangerous. Firefighters and other first responders can leverage our system to quickly locate those in dire need of help.

How I built it

The SafetyNet application is built upon a PHP/MySQL back-end, which synchronizes data among all the components of the system. The dispatcher / administrative control panel is a highly-responsive web application powered by Javascript and AJAX requests. The mobile endpoints (the Android app and the ultra-thin web client) were written in Java and Javascript, respectively.

Challenges I ran into

Mobile development took the most time and effort, despite the relative simplicity of the endpoint application. Features like push notifications, which provide speedy communication, and positioning, which provide the valuable location data to dispatchers, took a lot of time to set up and integrate cross-platform.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

The dispatcher / administrator control panel turned out very well with regards to design and functionality. We had a daunting task to keep the page in sync with the state of the frequently-updating database, but all of the pieces came together after a bit of hacking.

What I learned

We learned about how ambitious it is to develop an application that spans multiple platforms. We had originally planned to create interfaces for numerous operating systems and wearables, but were limited to just a few under the 36 hour constraint. Similarly, we learned how flexible web development can be in a cross-platform environment.

What's next for SafetyNet

We feel that this hack tackles a serious contemporary issue, and we think there is something to learn from what we've created at YHack. This application would likely require a lot of manpower to implement as-is, but it is an interesting concept that could be potentially integrated into future mobile operating systems in an effort to leverage newer technology to help us live better and keep us safe.

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