New 911 device, BEACON, developed by Trek Medics International, utilizes SMS-based emergency dispatching software for communities who cannot afford 911 dispatching.
The idea for BEACON was created after the earthquake in Haiti in 2010. Jason Friesen, founder of Trek Medics, shed some light on the problem BEACON aims to fix and how the software being used is not new, but is simply being applied now.
“We want it [BEACON] to be innovative and the way it would work is pretty simple,” Friesen said. “We would go into a community and say we want to give X amount of the population basic first aid treatment.”
BEACON works when an accident occurs and an SMS message is sent by the victim or witness. BEACON asks the location of incident. The answer to that question goes to a server, which then repeats the message and location to all of the drivers and first responders logged on to the network.
The first responders send an SMS to BEACON with their expected time en route to the scene. BEACON decides which of the drivers is closest and dispatches the appropriate person.
Friesen taught a group of volunteers to test the system in Aquin, Haiti who learned to use the system in a drill lasting a half-day and referred to as a “glorified game of hide and seek.”
The original volunteers were then able to teach the system to a new group in a few hours.
“I want to make it possible for communities to have basic emergency care and transport if they are sick and injured,” Friesen said. Aaron Hochman-Zimmerman, communications director of Trek Medics International, said BEACON does not try to change the existing medical system in developing countries, but tries to aid them in their process.
“BEACON does not intend to impose the western system on a community which cannot afford to do business that way,” Hochman-Zimmerman said. “It improves what already exists by simply creating a communication network to which all these drivers are connected.
BEACON is able to run on nearly any laptop built in the last 15 years and the standard cellphone available in developing countries. In New York, it will work on iPhones and laptops, Hochman-Zimmerman said.
BEACON has a prototype on the market, but is still in the beginning phases. As of now, BEACON is fundraising by using an online web source called indiegogo.com. The target goal is $75,000 with a little more than $18,000 accumulated now.
After six months of progress, Trek Medics International hopes to find funding from a number of corporate grants and government programs. Trek Medics International is looking to then start up pilot programs in Cambodia, Costa Rica, Panama and Rwanda.