The genre of science fiction has long provided us with a vision of what our cities might look like in the future – although it’s not always been positive! While films like Blade Runner present a fairly bleak portrait, others like 2002’s Minority Report give a prescient perspective on what we today refer to as the “smart city.” Driverless cars, personalised advertising, wireless drone-mounted CCTV – all of these features are now becoming a reality.
Facilitated by the increasing ubiquity of smartphones and high-speed wireless internet, the smart city sees traditional networks and services made more efficient through technology. This is the starting point from which German Imagine Cup finalists enCourage saw an opportunity to help keep citizens safe as they navigate the modern metropolises we increasingly choose to inhabit.
While city living can offer citizens a great deal of benefits, many urban environments also have a reputation for crime and unsociable behaviour. Recognising this, four students studying at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany decided to apply the power of technology to the task of reinventing the concept of the neighbourhood watch.
By developing a smartphone app that can anonymously broadcast signals for help, the team’s solution allows an individual to immediately inform everyone in a local area about nearby emergencies. This in turn helps others to coordinate, collaborate and work towards deescalating the situation. Not only does enCourage tell others that you are in need of help and where to find you with one just one tap of your phone, it also gives you the option to send additional information about what is happening, if feasible.
Despite making the Imagine Cup finals, the team isn’t resting on its laurels. They’re already envisaging how they might integrate Augmented Reality (AR) with enCourage, through Microsoft’s HoloLens. It’s this progressive attitude that highlights why enCourage made it to this stage – even after making it to the final of a worldwide citizenship competition they are still passionate about improving their project.
You can read more about enCourage here.