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New Microsoft App To Coordinate Disaster-Relief Efforts

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the it-just-plays-marco-polo dept.

Microsoft 69

An anonymous reader writes "Microsoft on Wednesday launched a new mobile app powered by Windows Azure called HelpBridge that lets you both ask for help after a natural disaster, as well as offer to give it. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the launch is an excellent initiative to rally everyone around one cause: supporting each other during a time of need. You can download the app right now from the Google Play Store, the Apple App Store, and the Windows Phone Store. Unfortunately, it's only available in the US right now, but hopefully Microsoft will be expanding regional support soon."

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But what about when all power is gone? (5, Insightful)

ericbrow (715710) | about a year and a half ago | (#42620947)

How will this help if all power, all hotspots, and all cell towers are down? There were dead spots during hurricane Sandy .

Re:But what about when all power is gone? (5, Funny)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about a year and a half ago | (#42621027)

Disaster relief?

Do we REALLY need another Windows 8 story? :-)

Re:But what about when all power is gone? (1)

CanadianRealist (1258974) | about a year and a half ago | (#42621243)

That was my first thought too. But then I noticed in the summary that it specifically mentions natural disasters. I think most people would agree that there's nothing natural about the disaster known as Windows 8.

Re:But what about when all power is gone? (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622887)

You know that, I know that. Who has the nerve to tell Balmer?

Re:But what about when all power is gone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42622965)

Somebody that's really good at ducking chairs?

Re:But what about when all power is gone? (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year and a half ago | (#42627709)

Nuclear plant melt downs are considered by many to be a "natural disaster" but are not natural in origin.

Re:But what about when all power is gone? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42625741)

Why'd ya pull yer resume off LinkedIn Jeremiah Cornelius -> http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=3368135&cid=42529887 [slashdot.org] Is it since someone spotted you're not only a "San Fran 'Man'" (a fella is more like it) and that you can't even spell what you allegedly used to do for a job? It's correctly spelled PENETRATION, not "pentration" as you misspelled it there in front of 1,000's no doubt (one would think an anal penetration man from San Fran'd know how THAT is spelled at least, lol). Jeremiah Cornelius likes to troll others -> http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2238996&cid=36457426 [slashdot.org] , but can't handle it when it's done in return showing he is illiterate, and that much is obvious. You fail troll. How many years did you leave your resume up there with that basic literacy fail on it? Yes you have been trolled. You like? I wager you don't since you removed your faulty resume (on the very thing you took pride in that you can't even spell correctly most likely indicating you weren't any good at it either).

Re:But what about when all power is gone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42626889)

Wow, Jer,

You've got your own personal Grammar Nazi Troll Stalker.

You have arrived!

Re:But what about when all power is gone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42627033)

JC posts AC to "defend" himself? Please. JC = troll http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2238996&cid=36457426 [slashdot.org]

Re:But what about when all power is gone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42630763)

You avoid a direct question: Why'd ya pull yer resume off LinkedIn Jeremiah Cornelius -> http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=3368135&cid=42529887 [slashdot.org] Is it since someone spotted you're not only a "San Fran 'Man'" (a fella is more like it) and that you can't even spell what you allegedly used to do for a job? It's correctly spelled PENETRATION, not "pentration" as you misspelled it there in front of 1,000's no doubt (one would think an anal penetration man from San Fran'd know how THAT is spelled at least, lol). Jeremiah Cornelius likes to troll others -> http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2238996&cid=36457426 [slashdot.org] , but he can't handle it when it's done in return showing he is illiterate, and that much is obvious. You fail troll. How many years did you leave your resume up there with that basic literacy fail on it? Yes you have been trolled. You like? I wager you don't since you removed your faulty resume (on the very thing you took pride in that you can't even spell correctly most likely indicating you weren't any good at it either).

Re:But what about when all power is gone? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42621139)

There were also people migrating to areas with power, cell signal, and extension cords to charge their phones. There are dead spots all the time in a lot of places. When's the last time there was no power or cell towers anywhere? 1600's? This is a practical solution if executed right.

Re:But what about when all power is gone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42622261)

Indeed, there are definitely uses. There are other community and '311' apps and platforms out there as well. Many that have been around longer, are more stable, and have more potential to work with local governments. Mostly it's just "mobile workforce/crowd-sourcing civic duty" with an MS logo on it. Given Microsoft's inability to release a proper Xbox app, I find it doubtful they will do much good here. Anyways, it seems pretty likely they stole this idea:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/18/technology/in-new-apps-tools-for-volunteering-after-hurricane-sandy.html [nytimes.com]

http://mashable.com/2012/10/29/google-crisis-map-hurricane-sandy/ [mashable.com]

Let's see if they patent it.

Re:But what about when all power is gone? (1)

penix1 (722987) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624683)

When's the last time there was no power or cell towers anywhere? 1600's? This is a practical solution if executed right.

June 2012...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/June_2012_North_American_derecho [wikipedia.org]

Re:But what about when all power is gone? (1)

not already in use (972294) | about a year and a half ago | (#42627235)

Yes, it's completely worthless because there are some cases where it couldn't be used!

The slashdot community has become one of the most insufferable communities on the internet. Rob Malda dumped ya'll, and now this dated website is changing hands at breakneck speed as the new owners realize their user base consists of a bunch of idiot neckbeards who are incapable of contributing anything of value. You're all disillusioned by the vapid self-affirmation that dominates any discussion. You all need to seriously consider the possibility that you're a bunch of fucking idiots.

Re:But what about when all power is gone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42628451)

In 2006 two strong EF2 (almost EF3) tornados tore through my town [slashdot.org] (yes, that's my journal, can't get logged in on this IE7 POS PC). The entire infrastructure in southernmost and east Springfield was completely destroyed except for gas lines. No electricity for a week, no landlines for three weeks, no cable for a month. But my cell phone worked through all of it. Cell service is the last to die, except when everyone tries to call everyone at once and oversaturates the carriers' service.

Pitiful (2)

murphtall (1979734) | about a year and a half ago | (#42620951)

The reviews are pitiful on the iOS app. Except for the one paid of course;)

Re:Pitiful (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42621355)

Speaking from personal experience, the Android version isn't ready for general availability either. Instead of showing separate destinations for work / personal email addresses/phone numbers, it shows multiple copies of the same work info. It provided a random contact's email for someone who didn't have email. And then it crashed when I tried a contact search using all lower case for an existing contact.

What a sorry excuse of a program from a business which should know better....

Re:Pitiful (1)

ozmanjusri (601766) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622089)

What a sorry excuse of a program from a business which should know better...

It works fine. You just have to use it with Microsoft's patented "Blaze for Sure" natural disasters.

40% of mobile 911 calls are pocket-dialed... (2)

Press2ToContinue (2424598) | about a year and a half ago | (#42620953)

I hope this app has a more foolproof way of preventing false signals.

MS should use it (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42621005)

Maybe they can save the Ballmer's job with this new app

Huh! (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42621015)

Wow what a complete waste of a app! Ever heard of Amateur Radio? It has voice,digital,low and high speed data capabilities with on ground on spot high availability communications! Dah

Re:Huh! (5, Funny)

Antipater (2053064) | about a year and a half ago | (#42621067)

True, but Amateur Radio is sadly unavailable to the majority of citizens, due to their neckbeard allergy.

help help! (1, Troll)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year and a half ago | (#42621035)

Help!-bluescreen-crap-reboot-Help!-bluescreen-Crap!-reboot-Help!-bluescreen-CRAP!-reboot

Re:help help! (1)

s.petry (762400) | about a year and a half ago | (#42621445)

I chuckled at this.

Re:help help! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42622037)

You're not allowed to mention bluescreens on Slashdot (or other tech forums) any more.

Microsoft's reputation managers are brutal on that one. Don't even bother trying unless you want to be modded into oblivion.

Re:help help! (1)

graphius (907855) | about a year and a half ago | (#42625303)

At least now there is a happy face on the bluescreen...
http://tctechcrunch2011.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/image23.png?w=640 [wordpress.com]

So let me get this straight (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42621037)

The natural disasters are managed on the artificial disaster known as the Windows Phone.

Of all four Android devices I own... (2)

Deathspawner (1037894) | about a year and a half ago | (#42621049)

... not a single one is compatible with that app.

Re:Of all four Android devices I own... (2)

binarylarry (1338699) | about a year and a half ago | (#42621163)

Shoulda bought a Windows 8 Phone Scro'.

Only old people use Android.

What a great thing (1, Interesting)

frovingslosh (582462) | about a year and a half ago | (#42621061)

What a great thing it is that Microsoft is launching a program to let people say "give-me give-me give-me" when they build in a flood plane but don't want to bother to buy flood insurance. After all, they needed to money that they could have spent on flood insurance to pay for their fancy smart phone to run the app. And at least we will not be pestered by the truly needy, since they are the ones who don't have smartphones.

Re:What a great thing (3, Interesting)

GiganticLyingMouth (1691940) | about a year and a half ago | (#42621299)

... when they build in a flood plane but don't want to bother to buy flood insurance. After all, they needed to money that they could have spent on flood insurance to pay for their fancy smart phone to run the app...

That's a very cynical view; insurance policies are much trickier than that. For example, the "anti-concurrent causation clause", which states that "if you have two events happen at the same time, one that is covered and the other that is not covered by the policy, the insurance company doesn't have to pay for either. So if your house has damage from wind, which is covered by your policy, and it also has damage from a flood, which is not covered, the insurance company doesn't have to pay for either the wind or flood damage." Taken from here [npr.org]

So you can have full flood insurance, but if your property received damage due to something else, you'll still be screwed. If you're in say, a hurricane, odds are you'll be getting more than just flooding. Try having a little compassion for your fellow man, although with sentiment like

... at least we will not be pestered by the truly needy

I suppose that might be asking for too much

Re:What a great thing (0)

Rogerborg (306625) | about a year and a half ago | (#42621721)

Nope, all I'm hearing is still "built in a flood plain, got flooded, gimme gimme gimme".

Re:What a great thing (1)

The Dancing Panda (1321121) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622555)

Can you name a major city not in a flood plain?

Re:What a great thing (1)

lxs (131946) | about a year and a half ago | (#42623883)

Zurich?

Re:What a great thing (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about a year and a half ago | (#42626319)

Los Angeles, San Diego, Denver, Chicago, Seatle ......

Re:What a great thing (1)

Mister Transistor (259842) | about a year and a half ago | (#42627041)

Bzzzz. Incorrect.

Most of Chicago and surrounding suburbia is in a flood plane from the Des Plaines and Salt Creek rivers. I know, I live near there - but on relatively high ground so I don't get my basement flooded every time there is a two-day rainfall like my neighbors.

Not sure about the others, but you never know...

Re:What a great thing (1)

The Dancing Panda (1321121) | about a year and a half ago | (#42663267)

You'll note that those are all relatively new cities (even though you're wrong about Chicago, and probably Seattle). Older cities were built near rivers, on flood plains, because that's where they needed to be for shipping, food, and a clean water source. Even now these things are pretty important. Los Angeles wouldn't exist without a completely diverted river, for instance.

Why do companies do this? (4, Interesting)

bogaboga (793279) | about a year and a half ago | (#42621083)

Unfortunately, it's only available in the US right now, but hopefully Microsoft will be expanding regional support soon."

Making the app available in jurisdictions other than the US is a no brainer to me. If I am a company, all I want is to make as much dough as I can. So why would a company restrict availability of a product to a selected market at the outset; if making it available to a larger customer base is a matter of coding?

I have done it on behalf of my small startup which unfortunaltely, was aquired and the new owner discountinued the product. But for a number of customers outside the USA, our products were good. And we sold them without any support. Cusomers [still] bought. We made about 19% of our sales this way. Now Microsoft launches an app and makes it only availabe to those in the USA.

Why do companies do this? Let the customer purchase the product at his/her own risk. They will still buy - I mean some.

Re:Why do companies do this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42621203)

This _______ is not available in your country

is a fucking slap in the face for the whole concept of the Internet and every person who worked on making it happen.

Re:Why do companies do this? (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | about a year and a half ago | (#42621247)

So put one up in YOUR COUNTRY. Microsoft is primarily a US company and for this app to be any use, your local government would have to coordinate with Microsoft. This is bleeding edge new, and probably doesn't even have anybody "listening" over 95% of the USA... In the EU they would have to have warranty and staffing or get accused of "false advertising" you can't just "float an idea" like this without massive government intervention... So Microsoft isn't even going to let you try it.

Re:Why do companies do this? (1)

s.petry (762400) | about a year and a half ago | (#42621433)

Yeah, and be sued into deeper than Cambodian turd farmer poverty because M$ has taken patents out on every aspect of this prior to release in every space imaginable.

Re:Why do companies do this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42629173)

quit being a crybaby and just do it.

Re:Why do companies do this? (1)

westlake (615356) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622995)

So why would a company restrict availability of a product to a selected market at the outset; if making it available to a larger customer base is a matter of coding?

Because it is never just a "matter of coding?"

When you are as big as Microsoft you need to understand the language, the culture, the law, politics, and economics of every market you enter.

Your small startup doesn't have a global presence and accountability. Your mistakes do not make headlines.

In truth you are all but invisible and almost certainly judgment-proof.

Do the Crisis Mappers Know about that ?!? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42621173)

http://crisismappers.net/

OpenStreetMap, Ushahidi, Sahana ... in Haiti and in New York
M$ft, you innovate nothing

Re:Do the Crisis Mappers Know about that ?!? (1)

JakartaDean (834076) | about a year and a half ago | (#42623997)

Mod parent up please. Lots of these apps have been around for a while, and some of them are open source and usable. The government integration would be useful, but really the key is just getting everyone using the same thing. Random Hacks of Kindness has spent some time on this field also.

"Help is on the..." BLUESCREEN (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42621213)

yeah. good luck with that.

Generic Anti Msft Comment Posted on Slashdot (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42621229)

Microsoft releases app that can help people. For free...and for multiple platforms. Queue predictable Slashdorks and their predictable anti MSFT comments.

Re: Without towers though... (1)

orophite (1567429) | about a year and a half ago | (#42621271)

Unless the app can turn your phone into more of a p2p network where everyone would be connected all at ones using wifi turning all phones into towers themselves for people to connect to and share what info they need to.

Re: Without towers though... (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about a year and a half ago | (#42621749)

Thats the key :) How long does your average suburban tower last without power? All the zoning, building codes, permits, environmental rules, costs, shareholders vs the FCC?
"A spokesman for the FCC said the agency will look at whether to require backup power."
http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2012/11/18/sen-schumer-cell-towers-should-have-backup-power-to-prevent-widespread-service-outages-like-after-sandy/ [cbslocal.com]
It was to be 8h min of backup electric power at most cell sites but that was lost in the need for more study?
So you have the "... disaster relief efforts near where you live and nationwide" tracking but it only works with power on.
What kind of event can you report on with the power on?
The human one.
So expect a nice option to attach a photo, send location information and enter details about suspicious people.

Re: Without towers though... (1)

orophite (1567429) | about a year and a half ago | (#42623043)

I wonder what the costs involved would be to have backup power generators for each of the towers. I think it would be more cost effective to have people with mobile phones as walking towers then having a tower run for X amount of time and then you lost your connection. Not sure if either method would pan out though in the great scheme of things. I guess you'll know what method would work best ones your facing a disaster scenario first hand.

Gosh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42621285)

I just can't wait to try it out... do you think it'll work outside the beltway?

Web App (2)

StevisF (218566) | about a year and a half ago | (#42621519)

It seems incredibly stupid to me not to just use the web. Why limit it to people who just have a device of a certain OS? Oh right, making money.

Re:Web App (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42623373)

Ya, which is why they have released it on all major mobile platforms? It is available on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. Not sure how exactly they plan on making money from it, care to enlighten us?

Lastly, it is probably in app form for the same reason many other apps are, ease of use.

Re:Web App (1)

hackertourist (2202674) | about a year and a half ago | (#42623905)

Not everybody has a smartphone. Shocking, I know.

Re:Web App (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42628403)

My question is, why limit it to facebook, email and sms.

How exactly does this help responders?

It seems like this info could also be used if it was centrally stored in some manner.

Disaster relief? (1)

UltraZelda64 (2309504) | about a year and a half ago | (#42621673)

What type of disaster? Are they referring to the BSOD?

New Microsoft App To Coordinate Disaster-Relief... (2)

Flytrap (939609) | about a year and a half ago | (#42621695)

I think that a Microsoft app aimed at coordinating disaster-relief efforts is going to be a... disaster!

Memory check (1)

TuxWithoutPants (2719479) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622361)

Invalid Disaster. Replace Disaster and try again.

So this is it. (2)

wonkavader (605434) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622499)

We're going to die.

A disaster to coordinate a disaster (1)

skaag (206358) | about a year and a half ago | (#42622961)

I think they should try to use it to coordinate their own disasters first, maybe then Microsoft will start to suck a bit less?

Something is fishy (1)

uvajed_ekil (914487) | about a year and a half ago | (#42623097)

Hmm, a MS app to help with disaster relief? I can't think of a common analogy, but it seems a bit like hiring a bull to restock a china shop after another bull trashes it. Or maybe there is something about a pot and a kettle, I don't know.

Dawin technology (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | about a year and a half ago | (#42625801)

The app causes the phone to self destruct, thus preventing it from hampering genuine relief efforts?

Sahana has been doing this for years (1)

CodeheadUK (2717911) | about a year and a half ago | (#42623829)

http://sahanafoundation.org/ [sahanafoundation.org]

I applaud Microsoft's effort, but part of me thinks this might be more about PR than a genuine attempt to save lives.

fsck that. support sahahna and ushahidi instead (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624121)

There are very good commercial reasons why open projects like Ushahidi [ushahidi.com] and Sahana [sahanafoundation.org] dominate the field, and why PR tokens from large private firms will always be just that.

More power to 'em, but if it costs a city from deploying a mature and well supported (not to mention free) platform like the two mentioned above, well fuck 'em instead - that's trading lives for PR.

Typical... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624891)

Yes! This is an awesome! Except when the power and infrastructure is out, which it would likely be in the event of a disaster, the mobile device will be useless.

Sometimes people baffle me with their stupidity.

A PR stunt that ultimately endangers lives (1)

domulys (1431537) | about a year and a half ago | (#42626145)

As a few others have noted, there are a few sites out there (e.g., Google's crisis response [google.org] and Sahana [sahanafoundation.org] ) that seek to match people in need with responders.

If this were any other application, I would argue that competition is good, but I fear that the fragmentation of services for disaster relief ultimately puts more lives at risk. Why doesn't Microsoft through its support & resources behind a well-established, widely-adopted system for collective disaster management? To provide yet another service that is disconnected from all others seems to invite confusion and reduce the power of the network effect.

The only answer I can think of is that Microsoft (lacking the same philanthropic reputation as its competitor, Google) wants to take all the credit. How noble.

Stolen idea? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42632567)

This application sounds suspiciously similar to a New Zealand finalist in the Microsoft Imagine Cup 2012. Read about the "Transparent Communication Network" entry by "Team Connect":
http://blogs.msdn.com/b/scottwylie/archive/2012/05/03/2012-microsoft-imagine-cup-new-zealand.aspx [msdn.com]

First attempt with big company support behind it? (1)

Twisted64 (837490) | about a year and a half ago | (#42676477)

After a series of small disasters in Australia and New Zealand, my previous employer tried to kick off a website to pair helpers with those requiring assistance. Several others popped up at the same time. There's nothing especially new about the idea; we were working on an android app at the same time. However, it would need a bit of policing to make sure idiots don't just sign up for free stuff.
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