Revolutionary in their time, the Civil Defence Apps and Alerting platform have been sunsetted and will shutdown on 30 June 2016. Find out more here...
As showcased in IBM’s announcements today, we moved our cloud systems on to IBM’s cloud infrastructure. Since this is a very big, strategic move - and potentially of interest to others in our industry - I thought I’d share a bit of background to this story.
In the old days, if you wanted to get the fire brigade, ambulance or police to help you out, you’d dial 111 on your rotary telephone.
Your call would be answered by a Telecom operator who would know what number you were calling from, and where that telephone was located in the real world.
Help would be dispatched to your address even if you were incoherent or confused or even if you couldn’t actually speak.
Today eight out of ten calls to the emergency number are made from a mobile phone. The operator doesn’t know who you are or where you are physically based and so, unless you can tell them exactly where you are, the odds are you’ll spend quite some time explaining yourself – assuming you can of course.
Think about the last time you were out in the world – on a bus perhaps or driving to work. Could you have identified exactly where you were at every given moment? I don’t know about you but I couldn’t. I regularly travel down any number of roads on a daily basis and yet don’t know what their names are. Not a clue.
This isn’t uncommon. The front page story in the New Zealand Herald last week (“How smartphone app saved trapped woman”) puts it in stark relief – callers to the emergency services don’t always know exactly where they are. If it’s dark or raining, if you’re in an unfamiliar location or if the caller has had some kind of incident that may include head trauma or the like, it’s often very difficult to know what help to provide.
Your mobile phone knows where it is, of course. It has to – it has to be able to tell the network where you are, so it can direct your calls and TXT messages accordingly.
Today, most of the new phones being sold are smartphones. They have a more advanced capability in terms of access to the internet, and that often includes GPS satellite navigation capability. The average lifespan of a cellphone is around 12-18 months, which means the number of smartphones in use in New Zealand (currently estimated at around 65%) will increase to the point where only a few users don’t have access to such GPS capability in the next few years.
The government has recently called for the development of a smartphone app that will allow users to send their GPS data directly to the 111 call centre to better direct those first responders when help is needed. This is important if we’re to continue getting help to people who need it in as short a time as possible.
Sure, there are privacy concerns about the technology and its capability but the benefits surely outweigh any perceived threat. We can design apps that will only pass on such information when activated or when you want – this is something we do today on a regular basis.
Being able to push a big red “help me now” button or similar is a tremendous leap forward in terms of being able to apply limited operational resources in the most effective way possible. Trampers and boaties are encouraged to carry position-indicating beacons and this is a similar concept using mobile phones.
It’s not foolproof of course. The cellphone networks don’t cover our more rural and remote areas as well as we would all like but it is a major step forward in terms of being able to provide help where and when it’s needed most.
From the media you’d get the impression that Apple conferences are all glitter and glamour, filled with new hardware and gadgets inspired to make people shell out yet more cash on their latest toy. Well at the current Apple Developer conference, known as WWDC15 (Worldwide Develop Conference 2015), the reality is very different.
The media gives us the impression that Apple is all about hardware devices, and any public event should be about the announcement of a new iPhone, iPad, watch or something else. However, WWDC is about developers – those who write the third party software and apps that run on Apple’s platforms. It’s about their ecosystem, and how that serves their customers.
In nearly 30 years in tech I have attended numerous technology conferences and events. WWDC is different. Firstly, it’s the most professionally run event I can remember – everything runs just like clockwork, and no detail has been overlooked, from the vegetarian meal options to the precise timing needed to get between sessions.
The first day’s keynote is, of course, the media rock-star event where Apple really outlines its high level direction and software announcements. This is followed by its ‘State of the Platform’ address which immediately delves deeper into key new technologies being unveiled in the next generation of its operating systems. The first day ends with an awards ceremony for the best third party Mac and iOS apps from their ecosystem. No hardware announcements.
But the news of the day that most media picked up on was the announcement of Apple Music, the evolution of iTunes into a streaming service. Great for consumers and awesome for independent bands and artists but not of much interest to the core attendees – developers.
The rest of the week is about in-depth technical sessions on everything from how to build apps for the next versions of watchOS and iOS, to best practice for privacy and security in your apps. They also run ‘hands on’ labs with more than 1000 Apple engineers onsite to help developers solve problems or improve their apps.
The sessions are highly professional, deeply technical, and packed with information, techniques and guidance on how to embrace the Apple platforms and maximise the user’s experience with your apps. Every session I have seen has been packed, with developers participating and applauding when some new technology or tweak is revealed that will make their lives easier and their apps better. But there is very little sensationalism or ‘fan boy’ attitude – this is business, these developers are here to learn more so they can create better apps, and maximise their use of Apple’s platforms, tools and ecosystem.
Personally, and for us as a Kiwi mobile-first development company, WWDC has been a great investment and will pay off as we build our product roadmap out, and see better ways to leverage the capabilities of these great devices for our iOS app users.
There are a few outstanding new advances announced at WWDC which are worth highlighting for their importance:
iOS 9 Multitasking on iPad
Apple has made major enhancements to iOS 9 for iPad that will allow users to run apps side-by-side on their iPad. This split-view paradigm will greatly improve user experience and productivity for iPad power users. This requires app developers to do a bit of tweaking of their apps to make it work but, more importantly, they should optimise their apps specifically to ensure they behave well on cpu, memory and i/o, as they’ll now be sharing that with other apps.
watchOS 2 Native Apps
Barely 6 weeks after shipping Apple Watch, they are releasing a major update to the watch operating system. WatchOS2 now allows apps to run natively on the watch (in version 1 the app mostly ran on the iPhone and pushed visual components to the watch). This means that watch apps can run when the iPhone isn’t in range, and are now truly first class citizens. They will also run much faster and avoid the lag that occurs sometimes over the bluetooth connection between phone and watch.
Mac System Integrity Protection
For OS X, Apple has introduced new security technologies and policies that further lock down an app’s ability to modify the operating system. This significantly ups the level of protection for users, and will help maintain Mac’s reputation for being pretty much impervious to viruses and windows-style malware.
User Interface Testing
One of the great challenges for software developers is to be able to accurately test their software’s user interface. This is especially hard on mobile devices. Modern techniques for automated testing are great for underlying software but the UI is always a challenge. Apple announced a major breakthrough technology for UI testing in the next version of its Xcode developer tools. This makes it surprisingly easy for developers to create automated tests for their app’s UI, and will lead to much more reliable and better tested apps.
An interesting and very Apple-like thing it has done with this is to build it on its Accessibility technologies, which help the visually impaired use their software. Apple has created great capabilities in iOS for the visually impaired but has sometimes struggled to have developers take the time to implement it fully in their apps. By building such a great developer-empowering tool on top of accessibility, developers will now have a huge incentive to make their apps more accessible, which is great for everyone.
Strategic Competitive Differentiation
Apple is really laying out a key strategic difference between itself and its competitors like Google and Facebook, and that difference is privacy.
Google and Facebook have a common business model – they are advertising companies. Everything they do is essentially funded by connecting advertisers to highly targeted users. To successfully target users, they need as much information about them as possible. So to feed their highly sophisticated algorithms, they suck up all the data they can. If they are good at it, which they obviously are, they make unbelievable amounts of money, which they use to do all their other stuff. Essentially, they mine and sell your information to advertisers, albeit they don’t hand the data over, they just leverage it to target you. And that is why things like Facebook and Android are free – you pay but the currency is your privacy.
Apple has taken the opposite approach. It doesn’t give stuff away free, you have to pay, and because of that, it doesn’t need your data. In fact, it doesn’t want it. Sure, it will provide you with the appropriate data services and backups and so on but they don’t mine it.
At WWDC it is increasingly obvious that Apple is positioning itself as the safe place for your data. It spent a good deal of time this WWDC drilling into developers that you should only store the bare minimum data you need on a user for your app and, as soon as you don’t need it, you should delete it. Apple’s recent Macs, iPhones and iPads all have special hardware designed for data security and privacy. Even Apple can’t read your secure data – things like your fingerprints for TouchID on iPhone 5S and later are stored in a special secure hardware ‘Enclave’ on the device and cannot be read or retrieved by anyone.
I see a war emerging on this front. Apple when you pay for services and get privacy, and Google/Facebook where everything is free but you pay with your private information. It will be interesting to see how consumers react. Do they care? Tim Cook has called privacy a ‘basic human right’ bu,t as with so many human rights, we happily trade them for convenience or lose them through ignorance. Which price are we willing to pay?
Richard is CEO of Cloud M
Exciting development which protects the lives of all New Zealanders in times of emergency.
For immediate release
CLOUD M and Tsunado NZ are delighted to announce a new joint approach to public alerting solutions which will see the development of an innovative relationship to help promote resilience and safety for all New Zealanders.
CLOUD M built and delivered the Auckland Civil Defence & Emergency Management (CDEM) alerting platform and native mobile phone application (Alerter) with in excess of 50,000 registered users. This has been successfully operational for the last two years and is currently being considered for use by other CDEM regions around New Zealand. Alerter helps the CDEM agency alert the public of emergencies, keeping them informed of emergency response, and helps prepare them to cope during a disaster. It also helps the public take care of themselves and each other. It connects close friends and loved ones in a secure, private network, and helps households develop and manage household emergency plans.
Tsunado NZ has developed a unique public alerting system known as TSUNADO, which has been built to provide geo-targeted alerts across the country, using satellite and FM radio to distribute the alerts. TSUNADO continues to receive information even when there is no power, mobile or internet availability.
The system uses simple, unobtrusive Alert Radios placed in the home, which sound a warning (similar in loudness to a smoke detector). The Alert Radios display a text message to the user, and then automatically connect to an audio feed from a local radio or satellite TV station to provide further information. With inbuilt rechargeable batteries, authorized information is able to be continually received for up to five days after an emergency event.The TSUNADO devices replace the need for a battery operated radio, which is an essential component of every recommended emergency survival kit.
CLOUD M and Tsunado NZ have agreed a “better together” approach whereby civil defence emergency management groups can utilize the CLOUD M Alerter solution and have this automatically activate the TSUNADO system.
“It’s great to see two best-of-breed companies working together in the best interests of our communities,” says Clive Manley, Auckland Civil Defence and Emergency Management Director. “Auckland uses CLOUD M’s multi-channel alerting platform and automated mobile application, Alerter to inform the public of emergencies. Integrating this with the TSUNADO Alert Radio provides the public and businesses with further warning capability and radio connection, and particularly strengthens our ability to contact and alert people during the night”.
“Our objective is to leverage the best technology in making the greatest difference for people everywhere,” says Richard Gill, CEO CLOUD M. “We are pleased to enable our alerting platform to be linked with TSUNADO and give the public the greatest chance of safety in times of emergency”.
Rhys Greensill, CEO, Tsunado NZ, agrees, “Tsunado NZ has been strongly supported by Callaghan Innovation in the creation of patented IP that is first-of-a-kind globally in the use of satellite in public warning systems . When integrated with CLOUD M’s Alerter it provides a comprehensive alerting solution for Civil Defence, and enables them to communicate to everyone - even those without mobile or internet technologies.”
For CLOUD M please contact:
+ 64 21 832 210
CLOUD M overview
CLOUD M is a New Zealand based mobile platform and applications company targeting health and safety, emergency management and education. CLOUD M was founded in 2010 by Richard Gill and is chaired by Helen Robinson.
CLOUD M has been developing innovative solutions for the benefit of public wellbeing including Auckland's Civil Defence public alerting system. In an increasingly isolated world, CLOUD M believes technology has the power to drive safer work practices, higher levels of learning and participation, and strengthen a neighbourhood’s ability to survive emergencies.
For more information visit: www.cloudm.co.nz
For Tsunado NZ please contact:
+64 9 281 4392
Tsunado NZ overview
The TSUNADO system has been developed by a team with a clear vision to create an alerting system that enables Civil Defence to reach into homes and businesses and quickly alert, inform and save citizens from impending threat. With a philosophy that technology should do the work for the user, the team have worked for a number of years to develop this simple yet effective form of public alerting in times of Civil Emergency.
Tsunado NZ is a wholly owned subsidiary of Disaster Warning Systems Limited, which is chaired by Al Monro. The company is 100% New Zealand owned and is based in Auckland and Tauranga.
For more information visit: www.tsunado.co.nz
For Auckland Civil Defence Emergency Management please contact:
Kiri Maxwell, Senior Advisor Readiness
Ph +649 369 7254 | Mobile +64 27 22 55 902
102 work-related deaths annually, $3.5bn cost to the nation
New Zealand app developer CLOUD M, is releasing an app which manages the health and safety of individuals working in high risk industries in real time.
Available to download now, Blerter is a safety collaboration network designed to help companies manage the complexities of health and safety across the entire supply chain.
Companies enable their presence on the network and manage projects, teams, and sites. Customers, consultants, contractors and sub-contractors all form part of the network, and group together around each project. Individuals see a view of the network based on the teams they belong to, their roles in those teams, and what they are working on.
All users interact via tablet or mobile devices to perform their everyday work. Blerter embraces the wider workforce including sub-contractors and targets risk industries such as construction, infrastructure, mining, transport and energy.
“Blerter puts people at the centre, which is where they should be where health and safety is concerned, and provides tools for real time situational awareness, hazard management, communication and incident reports,” says Richard Gill, Founder and CEO of CLOUD M.
Downer, leading provider of engineering and infrastructure management services with a 21,000 strong workforce, has been piloting Blerter within its ultra-fast broadband team in New Zealand with positive results.
“Blerter has the capability to change the landscape of health and safety for everyone everywhere,” says Mike Maunsell, General Manager of Fibre Operations at Downer.
Downer is part of the Zero Harm Community and Leadership Safety Forum. Julian Hughes, Chief Executive Officer, Business Leaders’ Health and Safety Forum, is delighted to see “tools like Blerter to help business leaders drive a culture of health and safety.”
According to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, there are 102 work-related deaths, 378 work-related serious non-fatal injuries on average in New Zealand each year, contributing to social costs of $3.5 billion annually.
The revised National Action Agenda focuses on five sectors with consistently high rates of injuries and fatalities – construction, agriculture, forestry, manufacturing and fishing. Blerter aims to minimise harm in these and other high risk industries by empowering the supply chain to monitor health and safety in real time.
Alison Molloy, Chief Executive of Site Safe, says that health and safety is people centric and every worker should feel empowered to go home safely.
“Enabling tools like Blerter is an important step in improving attitudes and behaviours about health and safety,” says Molloy.
Blerter is available now on iPhone and iPad – coming soon to Android – as a free app for workers to download and build their personal safety profile. Business owners can also register their interest and subscribe to provide access to their projects for their workers.
 The State of Workplace Health and Safety in New Zealand, Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment, September 2012
 National Action Agenda 2010-2013, WorkSafe New Zealand, 18 September 2013
For CLOUD M please contact:
Yas Greenslade, 09 973 5985,
Note to editors:
Blerter is available as a free download now at The Apple App Store and coming soon to Android from the Google Play Store.
CLOUD M overview
CLOUD M is a mobile platform and applications company targeting health and safety, emergency management and education. CLOUD M was founded in 2010 and has been developing innovative solutions for the benefit of public wellbeing since, including Auckland's Civil Defence public alerting system.
In an increasingly isolated world, CLOUD M believes technology has the power to drive safer work practices, higher levels of learning and participation, and strengthen a neighbourhood’s ability to survive emergencies. For more information visit: www.cloudm.co.nz