Davao-based developers win hackathon for app that locates people in calamity

Davao-based developers hack for a cause during the recent AngelHack Davao, which churned out relevant mobile apps geared toward disaster relief and preparation.

Davao-based developers hack for a cause during the recent AngelHack Davao, which churned out relevant mobile apps geared toward disaster relief and preparation.

An app that reconnects families and informs their loved ones of their current location and situation using their phones even without the need for an Internet connection won in the recently concluded AngelHack Davao hackathon.

The iCalamity app, created by Davao-based developers headed by Christopher John Cubos, bested 18 other mobile app projects in the hackathon organized by the Smart Developer Network (Smart DevNet).

iCalamity’s creation was inspired by the aftermath of typhoon Yolanda, according to Cubos.

Cubos said one of the biggest tragedies he observed during the recent super typhoon Yolanda that ravaged most of Central Visayas was the difficulty of knowing the situation of families in the typhoon-struck areas.

“Most of the people in Leyte and other areas felt alone and abandoned. When the typhoon struck, nobody was there to help them right away, and most of the people who survived were left to fend for themselves,” Cubos, the owner of a Davao-based mobile and Web development firm, said.

Cubos teammates include Kevin Omiple, Randolph Ramirez, Genesis Ortiz and Jonnel Ray Buisan.

The hackathon, or a “hacking marathon,” revolved around the theme of “Hack2Help” that challenged software developers and mobile programmers in the region to create apps and systems that can be useful during times of calamities in just the span of 24 hours.

“Our goal with iCalamity is to ensure that no one will ever have to face a calamity alone,” recounted Cubos.
By simply sending a text message to a centralized number, a father residing in Metro Manila, for example, will be able to know the approximate location of his daughter’s phone in Tacloban City.

Meanwhile, by using the accompanying mobile app, an OFW mother in Dubai will know the exact location of his husband in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, as plotted on an interactive map.

The entire iCalamity system uses a combination of GPS, geofencing and mapping technologies to correctly pinpoint the location of mobile phone users on the ground. By utilizing the Youphoric SMS API introduced earlier by Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) and content provider YouPhoric labs, friends and relatives can be notified via SMS of the current location of the user.

Should the system fail to locate a specific member—due to lack of signal or battery—the app automatically scrolls through a pre-defined list of other family members or friends until it finds a user with an active phone signal or data connection.

Through the mobile app and the accompanying Web app, the system plots these locations on a map that uses the Nokia HERE API so users are easily located.

Cubos said this is also useful for rescue and relief workers in the area so they can immediately identify which individuals and areas need urgent help.

“It’s amazing to see the ideas that the developers came up with for disaster relief. We’ve never done a hackathon with this theme before, and I think it hit home for everyone, and I am proud that the developers are really trying to build something that would not only change but also save people’s lives,” said Kamrin Klauschie, Global Marketing and Community Manager at AngelHack, who is also one of the judges of the hacking competition.

“We’re very pleased with all the apps for disaster preparedness and emergency response that Davao developers created this weekend. We’ll be working closely with the winners to refine these apps and get them off the ground for use in the Yolanda relief efforts and in similar efforts in the future,” said Jim Ayson, Senior Manager for Partner Management and Developer Relations at Smart.

“iCalamity stands as a testament to the creativity and ingenuity of Filipino developers who are always trying to find ways to make people’s lives better, and in this case, safer, through the help of mobile technology,” Ayson added.

For winning the grand prize during the country’s 2nd AngelHack event, the iCalamity team went home with P40,000 in cash, four Google Nexus devices, business incubation assistance from IdeaSpace, and automatic acceptance into the Spring 2014 HACKcelerator program of AngelHack in San Francisco, California.