It’s every family’s worst nightmare: an attack on the children. When kidnappers attempted to abduct LifeLine Response founder Peter Cahill’s two nieces, he felt like any of us would feel—helpless and desperate to do something useful. When violence strikes someone we love, some of us get angry, some get even—others get innovative. The girls were, thankfully, unharmed, but the incident prompted Peter to do what he does best and develop a technological solution. From that terrifying event came an app that has already saved lives.

LifeLine Response is a personal safety mobile app that was created to leverage natural human responses to emergency situations. If users feel unsafe walking alone after dark, they can launch the app and keep a thumb on the screen of their device. If the person’s thumb is lifted from the screen—if they drop the phone during an attack, for example—a call is made to the cloud, and a 20-second countdown begins…

  1. If, during the 20 seconds, the user enters a disarm code to let LifeLine know they’re safe, no further action will be taken.
  2. If no disarm code is entered or if the phone is disabled, a call goes to a 24/7 response verification center who will call the user to verify he or she is safe.
  3. If the call is unanswered or the user gives a secret “help me” code, first responders are immediately dispatched to the user’s location.
  4. While the app is active, the user’s location is updated every 10 feet or 10 seconds, so LifeLine is able to give first responders very accurate location information.
A hands-free timer mode works the same way but is triggered when the time expires and no “I’m OK” code is entered. There’s even a timed option for areas where there’s no internet connectivity, like in parking garages.
The design of the LifeLine Response app came from literally thousands of hours of interviews, many with the sort of people we hoped to protect the users of LifeLine from. A key insight came from these conversations: the moment of impact between attacker and victim is critical. If the victim can send out a cry for help to qualified responders quickly, the possibility of escape increases exponentially. While it may be impossible to dial 9-1-1 during an attack, it’s human nature to drop whatever is in our hands when we’re set on unexpectedly. And that is precisely what triggers LifeLine Response.
Not only does LifeLine Response provide this security to individuals, we also have an enterprise model that serves universities, hospitals, and corporations, so we need to be able to quickly access and dispatch the critical information from a very broad database. For that reason, LifeLine Response is a 100% cloud solution. Because the response must happen in milliseconds, we need the computing power, security, and stability of the Azure platform and the storage capabilities of the cloud. In order to direct emergency responders to the right location, we work with services that do reverse geocoding utilizing Bing maps. We also send the user’s information (height, weight, hair color, etc.) to responders so they can identify the correct person quickly, and we email the user’s contacts to alert them to the situation. With this much data to communicate, and with lives potentially at stake, we wanted the best possible solution: enterprise grade architecture built on Microsoft Windows Azure.
Despite the relative youth of our solution, to our knowledge, LifeLine has already prevented four attacks. LifeLine isn’t just a service we provide or a product we sell, it’s a mission. Many of us at LifeLine are parents; we’re spouses and siblings and daughters and sons, and we understand the peace of mind a solution such as ours can provide. ​​