Stellenbosch startup launches disruptive emergency response platform

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South African startup Incipient Software Laboratories has launched an emergency response platform, utilising the Internet of Things (IoT) in order to improve response times.

Incipient was developed at the LaunchLab incubator at Stellenbosch University, and came about after founder and chief executive officer De Wet du Toit had a near-death experience a few years ago.

Inspired to build a system which would alter the way in which technology is used to respond to emergencies, du Toit began working on Incipient two years ago, keen to build a system that could respond to emergencies but also over time prevent certain emergencies by incorporating big data.

“We have tens of millions of people seriously injured worldwide every year. The causes vary greatly. The cost to human life is phenomenal. The cost to the economy also,” he told Disrupt Africa.

“We wanted to find a way to not only prevent some of that, but to manage the response efforts in a new, much more efficient way.”

Having looked at the technologies used by companies like the 911 in the United States, du Toit said Incipient had identified a massive opportunity. The startup has built an open platform which sensors such as smartphone panic buttons, smoke alarms and other IoT applications can plug into.

The Incipient system currently has three main components. End-user apps, such as panic buttons, smoke alarms and collision detection apps, are deployed on smart devices.

The paid version of the app connects a user to professional response-providers, while the free version simply connects the user to his or her peers.

A server-side platform receives the signal and decides what to do with it, while also interfacing to third party components and systems such as the police, security firms and medical services. Finally, a response-provider app assists the response provider in navigating to the incident, through information it receives from the platform.

“The service providers who are selected to respond are determined based on criteria including geo-fencing, emergency type, service provider type, service provider ratings, history and availability, to name a few,” du Toit said.

“Our fallback is virtually always to have a call centre operator contact the local police station. On the service provider side we have an app running on tablets inside their vehicles, which receive the distress signal and directs the service provider to the incident, turn by turn. The most relevant informations is displayed to the driver so that he can make split second decisions while engaging.”

Incipient is in the process of testing other features, such as collision detection for monitoring automobile accidents, smart-city integration, and operator-voice feedback.

“Right now we are starting to engage with service providers and we are on the lookout for partners who are willing to do a trial run in a select few ecosystems with us,” du Toit said.

“We are specifically interested in university campuses and other similar ecosystems where we can assist in making neighbourhoods a bit safer again, but also in giving more people access to response services and peace of mind.”

“Reclaiming the streets” is what du Toit says is the goal of Incipient.

“South Africans – and global citizens – need tools like these to help us live without constant fear of the unknown,” he said.

“Our vision is to really provide a provider-agnostic platform, similar to what Uber does with taxis, except that our platform is a bit more complex and ultimately it will result in a safer society.”

Internally funded so far and fully launched in the last two weeks, Incipient hopes to raise as much as ZAR20 million (US$1.2 million) this year to further its development. Du Toit said the startup was looking into signing a deal which will increase the user base by a large chunk.

“We have a good strategy in place for larger growth and creating the right environment for our model to work. We will deploy this as soon as we have achieved the minor goals,” he said.

“For now we have kept the growth organic, which I believe is the smart thing to do so we can iron out potential kinks.”

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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