EmergenSee: Out Of The Shark Tank – The Next 911


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EmergenSee CEO Phil Reitnour, who was turned down on the Shark Tank broadcast in October on a modest request for $250,000, told us that his purpose in appearing on the highly rated show was to gain nationwide exposure for his mobile cloud personal safety system. Reitnour rates the experience as quite successful, stating, “We got 272,000 downloads of our app immediately afterwards and we’ve been approached by 60 investors.”

EmergenSee has been in the process of developing a mobile-based security system, including audio, video, GPS and text capability. Reitnour states the vision as, “We plan to be The Next 911,” fully featured and updated to the mobile era.

The “official” Next Generation 911 (NG9-1-1, administered by the DOT, Department of Transportation for the U.S.) is a plan to transition the current voice E911 system to today’s IP, smartphone ecosystem of devices. The relevance of EmergenSee to this standard is clear, as a requirement for NG9-1-1 is to capture in real time, text, voice, video and other data for the future PSAP, (public service answering position) system.

EmergenSee’s initial, free, consumer app enabled a peer-to-peer communication between a user and pre-designated contacts, e.g., between a college student and a parent or friend. The free app is available in iOS and Android versions and the company states that it will provide Windows and Blackberry versions as well.

In June of this year it launched a more extensive product that it aims to sell, not only to consumers, but also to institutions, such as colleges or government agencies, as well as to organizations and business enterprises. The paid service is priced at $8.99 per month for one user.

In its offerings to institutions, such as universities, Reitnour states, they will discount the price to $7.99 or $6.99 per month per user, depending on the number of students who sign up. EmergenSee will create a geofence around the university and anyone within the geofence, even non-paying app users, will have access to the security system.

EmergenSee has announced clients including Lehigh University, Georgetown Law, Swarthmore College, the FBI and Nationwide Insurance, among others.

Any time a user feels unsafe, they can initiate a session by tapping the EmergenSee button on their startup screen. This initiates streaming audio, video and GPS location data from the user’s site to their pre-selected contact list. Icons that appear on the user’s screen indicate that streaming is taking place, including, as appropriate to the level of service, whether professional monitoring is also happening.

One point to note is that there must be a network connection available for the system to work. When an incident starts, the contacts receive a text or email with a link informing them of the matter. When the personal contacts click on the link they receive a GPS map of the user’s location and video and audio transmission from the site.

The company uses a Tier 4 monitoring facility in Annapolis Maryland for its Command Center. (Tier 4 is a designation of the highest level of reliability and fault tolerance under the Telecommunications Infrastructure Standard for Data Centers, TIA-942, prescribed by the Telecommunications Industry Association.)

If the user cannot be connected to the EmergenSee server, they receive a notification with instruction to contact 911.

The system includes a Virtual Escort that can alert contacts if a user takes too long – based on a time estimate pre-selected by the user – to complete a contemplated action, e.g., walking to their car in a lonely area. Other features include a Black Screen option (that conceals from a potential attacker the fact that the phone is transmitting); as well as Two-Way Texting that can use prompts sent by the command center monitors. Reitnour states that in the next version, contact with 911 will also be offered as an option.

Mobile phones offer obvious uses for personal safety. We were approached a couple of years ago by a company with an emergency system which was based on the mobile device, i.e., it could be triggered from a (physical) emergency button on the device, or triggered as well by any tampering with the device or loss of power. It would then send a message to emergency services that might include GPS information.

Obviously, this is a very different approach to the security issue than the EmergenSee service. The button concept would require the device makers to buy in to the idea, which is a particularly difficult hurdle to surmount.

EmergenSee avoids this initial hurdle by going with a mobile cloud-based app and related infrastructure. Interestingly, Reitnour reports that device makers are now considering connecting with the company’s app and that at least one major carrier is also in discussions with the company.

Our take is that EmergenSee is addressing a major area – personal security in the mobility age – where a mobile cloud-based solution is the overwhelmingly most attractive answer. Reitnour told us that the consumer market would probably be their biggest long-term opportunity, an assessment that we agree with. The primary challenges for the company, in our view, revolve around the related areas of consumer awareness of the service, consumer engagement once they have the service, and, of course, pricing.

Getting back to the Sharks, at the time Reitnour and his colleague Jason Friedberg appeared in the Tank (June 2014, when the show was filmed), they only had 211,000 free users. The Sharks appeared to regard the $8.99 price for the paid version as high. (The Sharks also objected to the fact that the company, which only has about a dozen employees, relied on outside contractors for its software development.)

Regarding consumer awareness, Reitnour told us that they are speaking with some major potential partners who could help with gaining distribution momentum. The issue of user engagement looms large over virtually all of the apps that we have discussed in mobilecloudera.com. Security, for example, is an issue, which, as we all know only too well, is generally thought about by most people, only when it is too late to do anything about.

There would seem to be a promising market for EmergenSee, in any case at a minimum, among classes of individuals who are constantly concerned with security – law enforcement, high profile personalities and their security contingents, college students and their parents, etc.

Visit their website: www.emergensee.com

EmergenSee Client Video:
“Lehigh adopts app that aims to prevent crime on campus” Click Here to Watch


Photo by John Donges via Flickr
Podcast Narration by Gene Guerrero