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Where to begin? started as just an idea in July 2017. I was in a taxi travelling to a restaurant with my family when for some reason my brain decided to wonder why there were no services for people living alone that could be in trouble and have no way to tell people they were in trouble. Of course I thought about panic buttons and such devices but they all seemed to have failed to think of what happens if you can’t alert anyone? how do you tell someone you’re in trouble without doing anything? that’s where the idea of using a dead man’s switch came in.

I have to admit the idea probably came to me because of my own situation. I have type 1 diabetes and part of being diabetic is hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Normally hypoglycemia can be fixed by eating a few sweets, but in some cases it can come on suddenly and you won’t have much time to react or realise you need to react (confusion is a symptom of hypoglycemia). In these cases it’s possible to lose consciousness, and in some cases go into a coma or worse.  So as a diabetic, sleeping always seemed risky for me. While most of the time I sleep fine, or if my sugar does go low during my sleep I usually wake up, there have been times where I’ve only woken up due to my alarm or someone waking me up and upon waking I realise I’m not far off severe hypoglycemia. In these situations I always wonder what would happen if I hadn’t been woken up?

With my situation and my taxi ‘revelation’ a dead man’s switch app seemed like a great idea to me. And not just for me. I suddenly realised that although this would be extremely useful to diabetics, why not other illnesses? why not elderly people? why not people that are afraid of walking home at night? In fact why not anyone that simply wants to feel safer? With the idea firmly planted in my head, I began work.

At first I made a basic website just for me

A simple static page with a timer for me to click every set amount of hours (I set it to 24 hours for me) and a link to give people to check my page every now and then. I told them if my timer ever reached 0 I was in trouble. As time went on I kept adding features and making it more complex. I decided to create an account system so anyone could register and use it, I gave it a huge visual update so it actually looked like a website, I created a mobile version, and finally I created an app. After a few months I ended up with a dead man’s switch service that could track your phones location in the event of your deadline expiring and you being in trouble. I made it so that anyone could create an account and have either their own dead man’s switch and monitor other people’s deadlines, or just monitor other people’s deadlines. I made it so family and friends that wanted to monitor your deadline need to create accounts so in the case of an emergency it’s more likely they’ll get alerted. Everyone has their phones with them these days so why not make a phone notification the main way of getting alerted?

After I had my dead man’s switch service built I was happy to use it myself but still nervous of releasing it to the public. I didn’t want people to put their trust in me and my system failing to alert people that their friend or family member was in danger. I tested it a lot, and I mean a lot. I created huge fail-safe systems to ensure notifications and emails were always sent out if a deadline expired. After a few more months of testing I was finally happy.

That’s when I did nothing

I had a fully working dead man’s switch service usable only by me, hosted on a server which only I was using. Even though I was sure my idea was different than what was out there and that the current dead man switch apps out there were… lacking things, for some reason I was still uncertain or always wanted to add more features before releasing it.

And that’s when I did something

That something involves my girlfriend starting to help me with my idea and deciding that together we were going to enter into the StartUp Sussex competition. And we got in! But that whole story is for next time…


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