SMARTPHONE APP 101

By Audrey Fraizer

What is a cell phone application?

A cell phone app—sometimes called a mobile app—can be pre-installed on phones during their manufacture, downloaded from mobile software distribution platforms. There are also Web applications that provide an “app-like” experience within a Web browser. No matter the source, the add-ons intensify the phone’s use beyond simply making a phone call, ranging from just about anything you could want to apps you never even knew would or could exist.

How long have they been around?

Smartphones have been around a lot longer than the five years since Apple launched the iPhone in 2007, but Apple was the first to make the technology accessible to the average consumer. One year after Apple’s release of the combination phone, media player, and Web browser, the company introduced the concept of third-party applications and opened the App store, according to eHow Contributor Eleanor McKenzie. Success has, of course, bred stiff competition. The South Korean firm Samsung (Android operating system) overtook Apple in 2011 to become the world’s largest smartphone maker.

What do they offer?

Early cell phone apps integrated computer-like functions, such as e-mail and a Web browser into a phone. While these are still popular apps, stand-alone software is now the norm for playing games, reading books, and keeping up with pop culture newsfeeds.

What good are they?

Apps are also the greatest of time killers, considering the number of apps available. There are 707,000 (and counting) approved apps in the iTunes app store, a number that has certainly increased since plucking the statistic from the Internet (148Apps.biz) in August. An Android platform supports 600,000 apps and games available on Google Play. An estimated 37% of all iPhone apps are free, although the majority can be added at an average cost of $1.94. Games are the most popular apps, followed by education, entertainment, books, and lifestyle.

Down the line

Apps will only increase and get better in line with technology. They certainly won’t go away now that they command a market generating several billion dollars. A study conducted by Juniper Research estimates $25 billion in direct and indirect revenues from the sales of mobile applications over the next two years.

Do any apply to emergency services?

While most apps are geared to providing a diversion anyplace, and anytime, others can be actual lifesavers. While the Good Samaritan and emergency notification tools have a fairly specific target audience, the few apps we spotlight are good examples of how an app can be a useful and comprehensive resource in emergency situations. There are many more EMS apps available, although not dispatch specific, and for a more definitive list, check out Keith Widmeier’s story at JEMS.com (April 30, 2012, EMS Apps Assist Providers in the Field, www.jems.com/article/technology/ems-apps-assist-providers-field).

An Internet search using the key words “EMS apps” found:

CPR notification app

Released last year, this app is free and provided through the nonprofit PulsePoint Foundation. The San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District, an Accredited Center of Excellence (ACE), developed the app with the expertise of Northern Kentucky University and its College of Informatics to bring help faster to victims of sudden cardiac arrest. A story describing the app is included in this feature section.

MyFlare (Android app)

There is a one-time fee. Features: Calls 9-1-1 or the user’s designated non-9-1-1 emergency contact; automatically texts and e-mails up to 10 pre-selected contacts a customized distress message, along with your GPS location; delivers text and e-mail messages every three minutes to pre-selected contacts with updated GPS location; capable of sending 20-second video recordings capturing present environment (optional), which are attached to the delivered e-mails every few minutes as determined by the user.

EMS iPhone Apps

EMS1 created an iPhone application to provide EMS professionals with a free resource for breaking EMS news, tips, photo reports, and an archive of EMS1 articles. The list of iPhone applications includes: EMT Skill Scenarios, Dopamine Calculator, Emergency Response Guidebook, EMS Meds, Paramedic Review, EMT Review, EMS Logger Plus, Medical Spanish, Emergency Radio, Instant ECG, MCI Triage, BGluMon (blood glucose concentration), 12 Lead ECG Challenge, and ICEdot. You can download the whole shebang at www.ems1.com/ems-iphone-apps

FireRescue1 iPhone app

FireRescue1 created an iPhone application that provides a free resource for breaking firefighter news, tactical tips, photo reports, and an archive of articles. The list of iPhone applications includes: 911 Toolkit (reference for incident response checklist, EMS, training/study guides, HAZMAT), Rescue Field Guide, Emergency Response Guidebook for hazardous materials, Emergency Radio (listen to live police, fire, EMS, railroad, air traffic, NOAA weather, coast guard, and other emergency frequencies), and—for your amusement— Fire Truck Lite puzzle. You can download the package at www.firerescue1.com/firefighter-iphone-apps

WISER

The Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders (WISER) from the National Library of Medicine is a free resource to aid in hazardous material incident response. Its searchable database includes material identification, health impacts, and recommendations for managing the incident. The WISER mobile app is available for Apple, Windows, Blackberry, and Palm devices.

To determine which of the 5,000 Hazardous Substances Data Bank (HSDB) substances to include in the core dataset of WISER, selection was based on chemical hazardousness and likelihood of exposure.  Key information about the substance (i.e., what the ER needs to know immediately) is provided, as well as a pull-down menu of information categories for accessing the detailed information pages.

By identifying victim symptoms, substance physical properties gathered by observation or sensors, and hazard values from placards, WISER can help a first responder identify and validate the unknown substance. As the ER selects observed properties and symptoms, WISER looks in its database for chemical substances that have these characteristics. The list of candidate chemicals decreases in response to more user-provided information about the substance.

For more information and free download, go to wiser.nlm.nih.gov

ABOUT THE AUTHOR :
Audrey Fraizer is Managing Editor of the Journal, and is poster child for an editorial personality. She has a focused streak difficult to distract, calls library research a hobby, and believes she fools her co-workers into thinking she’s listening when she’s actually not.

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