Mobile app that reconnects families after disasters tops Davao hackathon

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A timely mobile app that reconnects families and informs their loved ones of their current location and situation using their phones even without an Internet connection was recently declared winner of the recently concluded AngelHack Davao hackathon.

Davao-based developers Christopher John Cubos, Kevin Omiple, Randolph Ramirez, Genesis Ortiz and Jonnel Ray Buisan created the winning app iCalamity

The app, dubbed iCalamity, bested 18 other mobile app projects in the hackathon organized by the Smart Developer Network (Smart DevNet).

Davao-based developer Christopher John Cubos said he and his team created the application after observing the difficulty of family members contacting each other during the recent super typhoon Yolanda that ravaged most of Central Visayas.

?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,? said Cubos, who owns a Davao-based mobile and Web development firm.

Cubos created the app with help of his teammates 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.

The iCalamity Android app allows families and their relatives to locate each other on a map especially during times of calamities. Using simple SMS technology, a user?s location will be determined even without an Internet connection

Drawing more than a hundred developers from around the region, the first AngelHack Davao also churned out the mobile app Enlist, which aims to make the system of volunteering during relief operations easier and more relevant.

Enlist is a social network of sorts for volunteers that aims to help individuals develop their skills around a number of areas necessary for volunteer work and creates an entire network of volunteers from around the country that can easily be tapped when needed, as in cases of natural calamities.

The app, built by Julia Jasmine Sta. Romana, Guy Romelle Magayano, and Nickson Quijada Rio, eventually bagged the second place during the hackathon.

?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.

The second-prize winners took home P10,000 in cash, Google Nexus devices, and business incubation assistance from IdeaSpace as well.

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