Phone guides help to victims

2014-10-02 00:00

AS an expat in the U.S., Larry Hurwitz helped design the new digital dashboard on the modern space shuttle.

The South African IT whizz and CEO returned to Durban this week to “donate” another technology he believes will save countless lives.

Very soon, he says, local motorists’ smartphones will automatically alert emergency services and family members of any car crash and precisely where it happened — triggered by the car’s airbag.

Hurwitz’s R1,5 billion company My911 is a key software provider to America’s famed 911 emergency call centre network. He says 60% of Americans making emergency calls from cellphones were automatically located — to within six metres — on call centre screens through his GPS-based locator system.

This week, Hurwitz came from his new Dallas home to witness the roll-out of the My911 system through SA CAN, the Durban-based community safety network.

His patented technology was so advanced even a sudden movement in a cellphone — like its elderly owner falling down stairs — could trigger a police and ambulance response, irrespective of whether the person could talk.

“Every smartphone has a sensor called an accelerometer, the thing that changes the screen from portrait to landscape, or to switch off if there’s no movement,” he said. “But it can also register sudden movement, which often means an accident, so we filed a worldwide patent to use accelerometers in mobile devices to register impacts.”

SA CAN co-founer Brian Jones said the system “takes emergency response technology to a new level”. It had been activated for 9 000 of its members.

Although My911 has been purchased by clients in 75 countries, Hurwitz brought it to South Africa at no cost “because this is home and I want my countrymen and own family to be safer”.

Jones said the system “triaged” emergency calls so the nearest paramedic was mobilised to a human medical crisis, while pet emergency or road-side assistance calls were routed to the relevant responders without cluttering 10111 emergency lines.

It both identifies the caller’s precise location in an emergency and the floor they were on via a “sniffer” feature.

A father-of-four, Hurwitz said his brother-in-law’s death in Johannesburg three years ago, following a stabbing, “might have been prevented with this technology”.

His brother-in-law had lain injured, but undiscovered, for more than a day before succumbing to his wounds.

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