Smartphones are amazing devices for keeping us connected to friends and loved ones and in no other situation is this more evident than in an emergency when family members are just a call or a text away.
The Silent Beacon app for iPhone wants to make using your phone at this crucial time even more efficient, pitching itself as “an emergency alert system for the digital age”. Silent Beacon enables you to quickly get in touch with multiple contacts in case of emergency — including 911 or your local emergency number outside the US — and provide your exact GPS location if help is urgently needed, all at the touch of a button.
When you first open Silent Beacon, you’ll need to create an account and go through some basic steps to set the app up with your contacts. You’ll need to provide your name, phone number and email address in order to create an account and then add in emergency contacts by importing them from your iPhone Contacts app or by manually typing them in, and then adjusting the methods via which you wish to contact them when your beacon is activated. You can make use of SMS, phone call, and email for all recipients and if your contact also has Silent Beacon installed, you can alert them with a push notification or let them know to keep an eye out for an alert if you feel uneasy with the app’s ‘Nudge’ feature.
In the app’s settings, you can customize your distress message for email or SMS and declare which person is your primary emergency contact to be called when the beacon is triggered. From the settings, you can also test out functions and see how the app works in practice.
This customization is key. If a particular contact is most accessible via email or if one particular contact doesn’t pay attention to text messages, you can contact them in the way that suits them and gets through to them most quickly and alter this on a per-contact basis. You can also set the exact message you want — great to agree with your contacts ahead of time so they know when it is not a drill.
Sending your GPS location is particularly useful for an emergency response system when time is of the essence. The recipient can pinpoint exactly where you are and track your location while your beacon is activated and even tap to open the location in Maps with directions to where you are meaning help can get to you faster. In a terrible situation like a car accident, you can only imagine how useful that could be. The downside to continued use of GPS is that it can dramatically reduce battery life, so I’d advise setting it to only activate when the beacon is triggered and be turned off again when all is well.
While Silent Beacon the app works as a standalone product, it’s certainly better with the accompanying Silent Beacon life alert device. The $60 dongle which is now available for pre-order connects to your phone via Bluetooth and allows you to complete all of the app’s functions without even taking your phone from your pocket. In fact, the physical device solves my main qualm with the Silent Beacon app itself. While Silent Beacon is certainly a much more efficient and useful way of alerting several emergency contacts at once — much quicker and easier than texting a bunch of people individually — often in an emergency you don’t have the luxury of even taking your phone out, unlocking it and opening an app to activate a beacon. The Silent Beacon device can be attached onto your car keys or clipped to a bag and can alert your contacts with a press of a button by simply sending a signal to the app which then does the rest for you.
Despite the physical Silent Beacon having some clear benefits over the app alone, the free Silent Beacon app certainly makes contacting your loved ones or emergency services in a pinch much quicker and easier and could literally be the difference between life and death. It’s the sort of app that you want to install, set up and then hope to never use, but if you need it, it really could help get you out of a tight spot.
Check out Silent Beacon on the App Store where it is available to download for free. The app is also coming to Android in the next month or so.