Toronto-based Guardly provides mobile safety apps for institutions, letting students or staff members alert a network of family, friends, and emergency responders in the event of an emergency using their smartphone. Today the company announced the launch of its new Indoor Positioning System (IPS) technology, which will now enable Guardly to transmit an end user’s specific building, floor, and room rather than only a building address in under five seconds, while also being able to track indoor location in real-time for complete building safety. The company is targeting institutions that could range from colleges, condos, and malls all the way to hospitals and transit systems looking to protect their staff.
Founded in 2010 by CEO Josh Sookman, who was formerly at the BlackBerry Partners Fund, the company initially came out with a consumer-targeted service, but switched to an enterprise focus after recognizing some flaws in the original business model.
“We founded the company on the premise of reducing the response time when people have an emergency situation…eventually we came across a few situations in the industry where a duty-of-care exists. For example at a university there’s a duty of care for the schools to look after students and staff,” said Sookman in an interview with BetaKit. “It’s delivering mobile infrastructure for personal safety, rather than what’s typically been put in place, which has been a lot of physical hardware…what we do really is virtualize the hardware and deliver the same value through your phone in a personalized experience.”
Rather than installing emergency call boxes or phones on site, institutions can sign up for Guardly’s services and pay based on the number of end users they want to be able to access Guardly’s app and service, which Sookman said can be anywhere from 5,000 to 50,000 users, with both custom pricing for larger enterprises and white label solutions available. End users download the app and are authenticated as current students or staff, and are able to have their phones broadcast their real-time location, identity, and provide two-way communication with private security, the police, and personal safety groups.
According to the company, Guardly’s Safe Campus solution for schools helped reduce emergency response time by 44 percent at a participating university. Previously only a user’s GPS location would be sent as part of the service, but now using the IPS tech the company uses its client’s floor plans to provide real-time indoor location to further cut down the emergency response time. With 70 percent of emergency calls being made with mobile phones, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission has also put in specific rules to tackle the challenges of initially not being able to identify’s a caller’s exact location or identity, something Guardly is in complete compliance with, to meet the needs of the growing trend.
Another startup, Splitsecond, also launched today with its plug-in device providing drivers with OnStar-like functionality when they get caught in a serious accident, while in the past, BetaKit has covered EmergencyLink, which also provides a mobile app that lets users register their emergency contacts and alert them in case of an emergency. Guardly’s use of IPS technology in the safety space is something Sookman said has not yet been implemented by competitors, though IPS is being used by several startups for highly geo-targeted advertising and promotions.
With its mobile apps available on Android, iPhone, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone, the startup will continue to build out features to continue streamlining the emergency response process. It is also in talks with undisclosed partners to put together an ecosystem which Sookman said will provide the company with additional means of distribution. The company isn’t releasing numbers on how many institutions are using its services, but the new IPS feature should help onboard schools and other places where people can be scattered over several buildings, and someone’s precise location is important in the case of an emergency.