Alert: The interface of the Rapid Response app.

Johannesburg - We already use our smartphones as webcams, scanners, and to fix potholes in Joburg, among countless other things.

It may sound like an “I want more apps” techno-geek tantrum, but these computer programmes make our lives infinitely easier.

Now there is an app which gives us what we need – rather than what we want. It is a panic button which we can press when we find ourselves in an emergency, are being attacked or have had an accident.

On the other side of that panic button must be an ambulance regardless of whether we have medical aid or not and regardless of whether we are contracted to a security company or not.

But maybe this is asking for too much. Not so, says Marlize Holtzhausen, director at Rapid Response, who came up with the idea after her sister was brutally attacked in 2010. She wanted an application that would gel with the South African environment and address its serious emergencies.

Launched last month, Rapid Response has been downloaded 3 600 times. The app is based on cellphone, GPS and Near Field Communication (NFC) technologies, and is designed to alert emergency services and facilitate rapid response in the event of an accident or attack. Rapid Response works on Apple, Android and Blackberry operating systems. Applications for Windows will be released soon, said Holtzhausen.

Once downloaded, the app is activated in three ways; by manipulating the volume button on a cellphone, tapping the “I am in Trouble” button, or by swiping any NFC tag positioned around the home or vehicle. This tag could also be a designed armband that a user can swipe the phone over, from a 5cm range, and it triggers the app to send out an alert.

Holtzhausen said Rapid Response is in partnership with ER24 to handle all alerts. And that ER24 responds within two minutes to an alert. Users enter their information on to the application and select if they have medical aid or not.

“All medical aid details are filled in on the app. This is important as ER24 will know if they must take you to a private hospital or not.”

When an alert is sent out, information such as the location of the emergency, the nearest hospital, police station and a user’s medical aid and insurance details are sent to ER24 as well as to pre-selected family, friends or neighbours.

Rapid Response was recognised as the most innovative submission in the ICT category in International Labour Organisation’s Enterprise Challenge last year.

The app has a R49.99 per month per person subscription. Payment is made with credit or debit cards on the app store.

Saturday Star