Wednesday 18 July 2018

Caught in an earthquake? There's an app for that

SME workers and families of executives are being offered systems to ensure safety abroad. Photo: Stock Image
SME workers and families of executives are being offered systems to ensure safety abroad. Photo: Stock Image
Mark Evans

Mark Evans

With geopolitical threats, natural disasters and the danger of terrorism, tracking employees and notifying them in the event of danger is big business.

Up to now, critical notification companies such as Everbridge and travel security firms such as SOS International have largely been used by large corporations which want to ensure the safety of their corporate travellers.

But now SMEs and the families of business travellers are being targeted by a service to keep them safe when abroad.

One app, CloseCircle, keeps tabs of your location when on the move, and transmits it to staff at its UK headquarters.

The situation on the ground in your location, or nearby, is constantly monitored. And if an event of concern occurs, the client is contacted by phone, text or other communication services to ensure they are safe and are advised on the best course of action.

"Worst-case scenario, we will evacuate you," CloseCircle's director of communications, Nicole Tomlinson, told this column, as the company began rolling out its product earlier this year.

I got to try out the phone app - which was launched first on Apple's iOS, and more recently on Android - and it continually assessed my location, along the lines of Google Maps.

The app kept me informed of events which could pose a threat in my location. Suffice to say, nothing bad or unusual was happening in Crete in early summer.

You can also switch the location to an upcoming country, and gauge if happenings there could have an impact on your work, or safety, and these range from natural disasters like wildfires to political or trade union demonstrations, which while no threat in most countries, could be a risk factor in more volatile nations.

"It's staffed by ex-military personnel and we're nearly always ahead of the news channels," said Tomlinson.

She said that while individuals may look at the Middle East, etc as the problem spots, the service also covers traditionally safe gap-year destinations for young people like the south of France, which have suffered terrorist incidents.

In the event of a serious incident, you might have to be evacuated - and there's a certain peace of mind in the swipe button that you hold down on the app to send out an alert to the company of immediate danger to yourself. Prices for a year's membership start at £195 (€220) for an individual, £349 (€395) for a couple; and £595 (€674) for a family of up to six people.

While it's not a priority for the average Joe Soap on a fortnight away in Santa Ponsa, the service has proved popular to date with the families of high-net-worth individuals who face higher risks of kidnapping and danger when abroad.

- Renting rooms by the hour is nothing new - but usually for nefarious reasons. But now one startup is promoting short-term stays, of as little as a few hours, in the name of corporate productivity.

London-based FlexiBookings.com says businesses can save up to 75pc on a traditional hotel room booking by paying for only the hours they need.

Co-founder Suraj Unalkat believes there's a market for very short stays to "freshen up before meetings, or to rest before a flight".

One hundred more hotels in London are expected to be on board by the end of the year, with repeat customers adding to the bottom line of hotels themselves.

Looking through the site, there's a decent range of daily specials, starting from £48, with most of the hotels in central West End areas and in the four-star range, with bookers able to use hotel facilities including spas and pools.

- There was a touch of the Gloria Gaynors as Shannon Airport released its first-half figures, showing a 6.6pc rise in passenger numbers on last year.

The airport said the increase puts it on track by year-end to have grown passenger numbers by almost 30pc from the days when its was part of the DAA with Dublin and Cork. All that was missing from the announcement was an I will Survive line.

But there's a sting in the tail - with managing director Andrew Murphy again calling on local business to actually use the facility, against the backdrop of Norwegian and United ending their winter services in the Midwest, going summer-only.

Sunday Indo Business

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