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NYC Techies Build Disaster-Relief Telephony Applications During 12-Hour Hackathon

NEW YORK, NY (November 12, 2012) – In light of the recent devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, 25 of New York City’s finest techies gathered together at a hackathon this past weekend to build applications to assist communities with future disaster relief efforts. During the 12-hour event, co-sponsored by Rain, an NYC and Utah-based digital content creation company, and TelAPI, seven teams of passionate software developers built telephony applications to support governments, municipalities, businesses, and those affected by natural disasters.

“After Hurricane Sandy hit so close to home, our team at Rain really wanted to get together and figure out a way to help with the relief efforts,” said Brian Edelman, CEO of Rain. “New York City is home to so many innovators in technology, so we figured what better way to do our part than to combine our resources with TelAPI and create electronic tools that can aid communities affected by future natural disasters. We’re extremely grateful to the developers who attended this weekend’s hackathon and we’re super excited about the resulting apps.”

The applications created were judged by a panel of experts, which included Kip Voytek, SVP and Director of Digital Innovation at MDC Partners, Bret Morgan, Co-Founder of Restore the Shore, Elie Lowenfeld, Founder and Director of Jewish Disaster Response Corps, and Cristina Warren, Senior Technology Analyst at Mashable.

  • First Place: POD, a hardware component that can be plugged into any electric outlet to gauge when the power fails. When power goes down, POD uses TelAPI to send an SMS to homeowners and their corresponding power companies to alert them that the power is out at a particular location. In addition, POD captures the time at which power failures take place as well as the length of time the outage persists via Web interface, which could be a very useful tool for utility companies.
  • Second Place: HomeBase, a simple messaging application for your apartment or office building which allows any user to create a profile for their building. Other residents can easily join and message individuals or all of the building members via SMS. This is great for sharing information and resources especially when you’re away from your building in an evacuation situation.

Other projects included:

  •  Sprout Help, which aims to provide a simple SMS/web/Twitter application that uses geolocating to match those in need with volunteers who are willing and able to help. This is especially important because, more often than not, there is a huge desire to volunteer post-natural disaster, but knowing what the need may be and where sites are located can be a huge challenge.
  • SafetyNet, an application that empowers users with the ability to broadcast information quickly via SMS in the event of an emergency, allowing them to get critical status information out to close friends and family, as well Emergency Services personnel.
  • Hugo Helps, a text messaging service in which a user submits an address to determine if power is available at that specific location. In the case that it is not, Hugo responds with hotels nearby that do have power available.

Rain and TelAPI are now working to arrange meetings with city and state officials to present these applications and discuss next steps.

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