A new app which got its start as a student project at BGU SayVU, is being deployed as part of the security initiatives at the 2016 Rio Olympics. It was chosen by ISDS, which is responsible for securing the Olympics, along with Safe City in a Box.
SayVU allows a user to send a distress signal to a hotline in an emergency even if a phone is locked and without having to access the application. The message can be sent in a number of ways; shaking the device, pushing outside the lock screen, hitting the selfie button or even speaking to the phone.
“We have established a hotline at the 2016 Rio Olympics,” according to SayVu Chief Executive Officer Amotz Koskas. “The Olympics is a central platform to reveal our unique technology to the world.”
SayVu also includes the option to automatically turn on the phone’s microphone. It sends the recorded voice, GPS and other locating information to an emergency hotline. What’s more, the app uses patent pending machine learning techniques to determine the user’s patterns and checks when it senses abnormalities. If there is no reply, the app sends out a distress message independently.
The technology was conceived and developed in the wake of the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli youths in 2014. One of them managed to call and report the kidnapping but the police did not immediately respond because they thought it was a prank call. At the time, Koskas, an MBA student at BGU’s Guilford Glazer Faculty of Business and Management, wondered if there was a technological means to prevent similar instances in future.
A year later, Koskas won the joint Google and BGU competition “Students Thinking Innovation in the Public Sector” in collaboration with “Digital Israel” and the staff of the “Accessible Government” initiative to promote innovation in the public sector through information and communication technologies. The new technology he developed attempted to meet two main needs: to give citizens the tools to send out a distress message and location quickly in an emergency, and simultaneously, to enable the authorities to get a clear, realtime situation report.
Recently, the company ran a pilot with kindergartens in Ofakim, Israel. It was deemed a success when a pedophile was caught in the act by a teacher who used the app. As a result, the municipality decided to use the app for all educational institutions, social workers and the municipal hotline, with other municipalities following suit.
SayVu has embarked on a $2 million funding round and is developing strategic partnerships in the U.S., China, Europe and Africa.
The company was also just awarded a $1 million grant from the US-Israeli BIRD Foundation funded by Israel’s Public Security Ministry and the US Department of Homeland Security. The funding is for a project to provide orientation within buildings and non-failure communications under extreme conditions to first responders such as police, firefighters, and emergency medicine personnel.