Monday, November 16, 2009

Random Hacks of Kindness First Prize!

GeoCam Disaster Response Project members were on the First Prize team "I'm OK". From left to right, Chris Cinelli, Otavio Good, Eric Park, Trey Smith, and Ted Morse. (Our iPhone hacker Hansel couldn't stick around for the awards.)

The Random Hacks of Kindness disaster relief codejam was this weekend. RHoK was an unconference run by all the attendees, not just a few organizers. The goal was to hack together new tools to help in disaster relief. Before the conference, people submitted problem definitions -- their sense of gaps in disaster relief where innovation could make a difference. At the conference we broke up into teams to create open source software and process ideas to address those problems.

Our team "I'm OK" addressed the problem that urban cell networks get bogged down in disasters with people calling their loved ones to tell them they're ok. To address this, we created a mobile phone app called "I'm OK" with just one button. It sends a single SMS to a server that in turn notifies all your friends and family that you're ok through whatever services you use to connect with them, like SMS to their phones, Facebook status update, Twitter update, etc. This is particularly useful because SMS messages don't burden the cell network as much as phone calls, and can often get through when calls can't. Half of the team was GeoCam project members (Eric, Ted, and myself), and we picked up some new friends along the way (Chris, Otavio, and Hansel).

Here's a few more photos.

FEMA Director Craig Fugate gave the keynote address, where he introduced the problem of encouraging people to make a family disaster plan before the disaster strikes.

I talked about NASA's involvement in disaster relief.

My slides.

The team was pretty exhausted by Saturday morning, but the free food helped :)

The presentation Eric gave about "I'm OK". Otavio did most of the slides.

The I'm OK app running on Android and iPhone. (Credit: Elinor Mills, CNET)

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