October 29, 2014 7:30 am
By Zeke Wright | Mercury
There’s a new twist on “see something, say something” — “See it. Send it.” That’s the concept behind Vizsafe, a free social media platform and smartphone app developed by the Middletown-based company of the same name.
Peter Mottur, president and CEO of Vizsafe in Middletown, displays the Vizsafe app on his tablet that allows users to access various video feeds within a given network.
Billed as a crowdsourcing platform for engaged citizens, Vizsafe allows anyone to record and share reports ranging from road hazards to suspicious activity. Each uploaded photo and video is geotagged, with users able to receive alerts by category within areas they define via “geofences.”
Released earlier this year in time for the Newport St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and used subsequently during Bristol’s Fourth of July Parade and the Boston Marathon, Vizsafe is available on Android and Apple smartphones and any web browser. The number of registered users has quadrupled over recent months according to Vizsafe Chief Executive Officer Peter Mottur.
“Really what the vision behind Vizsafe was to empower citizens to actively participate in their communities’ well-being and to enable them to communicate better with the organizations in their communities and neighborhoods that they really care about,” Mottur said.
“I’d like Vizsafe usage to expand throughout the community because it is an excellent medium for sending information to those who need it,” said Newport Police Lt. Dan Dvorak.
“The neighborhood groups see it as an efficient way to get photos and videos of things going on in their neighborhood,” Dvorak continued. “We often get reports of suspicious people but it would be better to see it in a video. I think this is a better tool than surveillance video because so many people have smartphones and tablets, and when video is on Vizsafe it is easy for us to download and view.”
Dvorak likened Vizsafe to other social media modes of communication between police and the public, as with requests for information about suspects and a recent dog reunited with its owner in Newport.
“What’s great about the platform is it can be used for anything,” according to Mottur, “whether that’s a tree on a power line, or a lost pet, or a flooded road, or — in the case of what’s going on in California — identifying people who are wasting water.”
Vizsafe received national media attention this summer after users on the West Coast began using the app alongside Twitter to “drought shame” neighbors breaking bans on water use restrictions amid severe drought.
Compared to the “firehose of information” that is Twitter, “what we’re trying to do is we’re taking that firehose and focusing it geographically, focusing it by category, so people can subscribe to categories they care about and by also setting geofences, or geozones,” Mottur said.
“So let’s say you live in Newport, you could set a geofence for Newport. And let’s say your parents lived in Baltimore — you could set a geofence for Baltimore. And your kids go to school somewhere else. You could set up as many geofences as you want anywhere in the world, and then based on channels you subscribe to you can get alerts.”
Bristol Deputy Police Chief Steve Contente said Vizsafe was an additional tool during this summer’s parade. “I would say Vizsafe was good to have in place, and the police department did monitor it,” he said.
Law enforcement in Mount Pleasant, S.C., have also been active in promoting the platform. But its envisioned use extends beyond law and order.
In California, Mottur noted a recent posting of a homeless man in need of help.
“There are all sorts of interesting things that people are using it for well beyond so-called ‘drought shaming.’ And that’s exactly what we want it to be. We want people to use this tool as a way to better communicate with their friends, with their family, and neighbors, and overall community.”
“It’s really enabling people to be good neighbors.”
About Vizsafe, Inc.
Vizsafe is the only 24/7 global platform dedicated to safety and awareness. Vizsafe’s innovative mobile platform enhances event and community safety by crowdsourcing, organizing and sharing visual content in real-time. Vizsafe users are fans and neighbors who support their communities, as well as first responders in fire, emergency medical and law enforcement. Vizsafe partners with organizations that care about public safety. Learn more at www.vizsafe.com