Assistive Technology - How MyComm can help!

A project log for MyComm

A portable, solar powered, handheld device that provides truly global messaging when you have no alternative.

Jack Wells 09/06/2016 at 09:350 Comments

Global communication is great when you want to send a message in a hurry or just to remind family you're safe and sound. However, in a worst case scenario, global communication could potentially be vital. An idea we've had from the start is to have an "Emergency" button on the MyComm. The plan is to get a "pre-canned" message to a number of contacts to tell them you're in trouble and you need help. Joining this with GPS data also allows for your emergency contacts to know exactly where you are in the world. When first setting up the MyComm you'll be asked to setup this emergency functionality so that you can create a pre-recorded message that will go out to a number of contacts that you define. Initially the idea is that this setup will be done on web-end of the MyComm service. There are a number of reasons we've considered this:

Ease of data input - Writing a long message and defining multiple contacts can be cumbersome on the latest smartphones, by going through a pc web service it will make things easy and quick. It will also allow easy access to edit contacts or messages when the user requires.

Reliability of data - By entering directly to the web service it means the MyComm doesn't have to sync the message or contacts to the webserver; Saving on cost and ensuring the functionality is setup correctly.

Reduction in emergency data - By having the web services handle the emergency message and contacts it means that the MyComm only has to send gps position and an encoded flag to say that the message is an emergency. There's no need to send multiple messages over the satellite network; One message as simple as possible helps ensure the message gets out without worries of data loss or multiple messages not sending.

Test Service - An option we could have during setup is to send your emergency contacts a message to say "Hey, you've been chosen by --User-- as an emergency contact for their MyComm messaging device. If you receive a message from our service please be aware that --User-- may require your help. We'll include their GPS position as well as a customised message that they have setup. Thank you for being a trusted contact!" - By going through the webserver directly the cost of satellite data can be removed from this test message.

Setup Trusted Users - This will be discussed further down, however, an additional idea for emergency use is to have the MyComm reply to queries from trusted users. This will allow someone to query where the MyComm is and receive GPS data and status.

So how will it work?

The key factors of the emergency use are to be simple and reliable. By having a hardware button on the device this allows for use without the touch screen; reducing the power consumption and avoiding any issues if the touch screen is cracked or non-functional. Further consideration means that we'll need a 2 step verification for emergency usage; we don't want a message going out because the button is pressed in a bag or pocket. One way to ensure this is to have the power switch with multiple positions; Off, On, Low Power, and Emergency. Placing the power button into emergency and holding the emergency button for 4 seconds allows the MyComm to be sure an emergency message is intended. Once placed into emergency mode the MyComm will continually attempt to send the message out. The RGB LED on the top will flash to show the message is trying to send. Once sent, a message will appear on the screen (depending on battery level) and the LED will change colour/flash pattern. The MyComm will go into a low power mode and display any reply messages. The message could be sent out again by activating the emergency button again.

--MyComm Emergency Button Render--

Trusted Users

We're still working on the details of the trusted user idea but the main plan is to give trusted users the ability to ping the MyComm device with a message requesting the current location and status of the device. This would be particularly useful in a scenario where someone is vulnerable to getting lost or are travelling to remote locations and the MyComm can be used to find them. The smaller designed MyComm device that doesn't have a screen would be useful for keeping on someone without being bulky or requiring user input. Once pinged with a special message, the MyComm will reply with the current GPS location, as well as battery level and other details, which will be displayed on the web-server that only the trusted user can access.