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No ping = Alert ON ! (Update Nov 10)

The inspiration was: interruption-based security architecture. The concept: Someone is detained. He was suppose to ping the system saying "I'm OK", but he can't. Because of this, a series of smart alarms are created.

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Written by DeletedUser

System: online alert system optimized for mobile usage. The system is intelligently linked to the Circles of Support.  Organizations are politically and geographically related in both sense, local and global.  A SMS could be geo-tracked if the mobile operator decided to.  A legal representative tries to call detainee's cellphone in case that anyone responds (either the detainee or the detainer) and provide support if necessary. 

Alerts (v1.0):  A first alert is sent to the family of the subscriber.  They must confirm to the system that everything is fine.  If they don't do so then the system send to them a package containing clear guidance and useful information for them to start acting proactively.  If by a certain period of time the alert hasn't been turn-off (which means the family hasn't reported the subscriber is now OK), subsequent alerts will be sent to outer circles of support.  An alarm cannot be set for less than 1 day.

Subscriber: someone who consider themselves under risk, register using either mobile or desktop device. They fill up a form explaining why they consider themselves under risk.  A profile is created (with personal and context information).  User sends SMS to the system every period of time (could be established depending of level of risk).  

What kind of resources are needed to get this idea off the ground and/or support it over time?

Team: Designer + programmers + managers + legal pro-bono staff, promoters. Infrastructure: Data center. Sponsors: Mobile Network Operators + Political organizations + Amnesty International + other international human right organizations + local communities Community support: the promotion of the system must be active and smart.

My Virtual Team

Marshall and the Cornell team. Marlon Bishop Paul Reader

How could this idea also be adapted to work in low-tech situations?

+80% of the global population posses a mobile device. SMS is handled by all cellphones (no matter how old, small, simple, or dumb they could be).

Evaluation results

12 evaluations so far

1. Technological viability: Can this concept be developed using existing technological tools and at a relatively low cost, will it work in areas with a limited technology infrastructure?

The development of this concept would require minimal technological input and/or would work in low tech areas - 41.7%

The development of this concept would need some specialist technological input and/or may not work in low tech areas - 41.7%

The development of this concept would be a large undertaking and/or may require extensive technological resource and cost - 16.7%

2. Awareness raising and information sharing: Does this concept help to raise awareness/educate people on the issues of unlawful detention?

This is a concept that, alongside being an active and functional tool, also raises awareness and educates users - 41.7%

This is a concept that, while being an active and functional tool, does not educate or raise awareness - 50%

This is a concept that is good at raising awareness and educating, but is not an active and functional tool - 8.3%

3. Usability: Is this concept ‘friendly’ to a diverse range of user, including those with limited literacy and technological skills?

This concept is simple to use and can be used in low literacy areas with little to no technological knowledge - 91.7%

This concept may necessitate the user is confident with technology, but requires only medium-level literacy skills - 8.3%

This is a concept that requires both a high-level of literacy and technological knowledge from the user - 0%

4. Maintenance and continuation: Is this a concept that could be sustained over a long period of time?

This is a concept that could be updated easily and maintained by local communities after Amnesty has left the equation - 66.7%

This is a concept that might need further development at a later date and/or may need Amnesty or another party’s continued involvement in order to thrive - 33.3%

his is a concept with a limited shelf-life and would potentially need a significant maintenance during its life-span - 0%

5. Scalability: Is this concept practically applicable across multiple regions without extensive adaptation; will it be pertinent to a wide group of people affected by diverse issues?

This concept is practically applicable across geographies and will be useful to a wide number of people - 91.7%

This concept will need to be adapted to cover different regions, but will be useful to many people - 0%

This concept will need little to no adaptation for use in different regions, but will only be useful to a limited number of people - 8.3%

41 comments

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Photo of Lee Antony

Just an opinion, try to consider how firechat works. sometime you cannot trust the network operator.

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DeletedUser

I know this is all very late, but I Alejandro I read your idea about 'No Ping = Alert On' about a year ago, and built on it, but I never did anything with it until a couple of months ago. I realised weekend party goers face similar issues, and you could have a white label app/infrastructure that supports both use cases, and also split the costs between organizations and sponsors in both spaces. I called it 'get home safe'. Here's a video explaining my thoughts on design and architecture: http://davidrs.com/wp/video-get-home-safe-design-with-balsamiq/

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Hi Alejandro - did you hear the news? Your concept is being developed and prototyped as part of this week’s Make-a-thon at IDEO London! Check this out for more info http://bit.ly/y2uDQZ and be sure to weigh in over at our User Forums http://bit.ly/yt0m5d to share insights, tips or important considerations for the Make-a-thon attendees to think about as they work on your concept. And here’s a hint: be sure to check out Brief #8!

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DeletedUser

Hi Alejandro. I think your idea is great and really taps into existing technology - mobile phones - which everyone seems to have access to, even in developing countries.

Photo of OpenIDEO

Hello Alejandro! Thank you for your great contribution, congratulations on designing a winning concept. The Amnesty team loved the simplicity of your idea and hope to prototype it at hack-day events. Thank you for your hard work!

Photo of Vincent Cheng

Congrats Alejandro! Activating based on inaction is a clever approach.

As this moves towards realization, would be interested to hear your thoughts on integrating this check-in activity with pre-existing behavior (such as wake up alarms/calls) in order to lower usage burden & increase sustainable adoption (see my previous comment below: http://www.openideo.com/open/amnesty/winners-announced/no-ping-alert-on-/#c-073984661ab601dca032941c45f1c66d ).

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Congratulations Alenjandro! The simplicity of the concept makes it very strong. Looking forward to seeing the prototypes coming out of the hackday events.

Photo of Paul Reader

Great work Alejandro! Will look forward to seeing how Amnesty realises this very simple but effective concept, both from a technical standpoint and the important integration into the alert and information system.

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DeletedUser

Congratulations on your winning concept Alejandro! Like everyone else, I'm looking forward to seeing your simple and effective concept prototyped.

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DeletedUser

Paul, Vincent, Phillip, Anne, Keith, Emily, Michael, Thank you all for your comments and your support! I'm sorry for not replying to each of your comments, but I barely had the time to login and send this message (crazy timing).

Cheers!

Photo of Paul Reader

Alejandro, as with other concepts, I have evaluated this simple but brilliant concept as an element of a broad integrated system. In particular I see this working as an effective alert in conjunction with Amy's PACT where the alarm generated sets in motion a predetermined response. In addition it would be useful, if possible to analyse the most recent movements of the cellphone prior to the alert.

Photo of Vincent Cheng

Agreed with Philip Antrobus. The beauty of this approach is that it's based on inaction (rather than an action, which may not be possible at the needed time) to begin the alert process. Seth Cochran (and others) also made some great points on how this system can work across different technologies (whether email, automated voice calls, or otherwise).

Given the high burden placed on potential detainees & their families, it's likely that only the fraction that are very worried that they are at a high risk for detention (which is probably significantly less than the total population at risk) would sign up for this service.

Perhaps it'd be possible to lower this burden (and thus increase the proportion of the at risk population that signs up for & sticks with this service), by integrating this check in activity with a pre-existing behavior.

For example, many people already use various systems (alarm clocks, wake up calls for travelers, etc.) to wake up each morning. So, imagine if this alert service is provided bundled with a wake-up call/alarm each morning. Subscribers reply to the call & turn off the alarm by saying or texting a predetermined code. If they don't respond, the emergency alert process begins. This also has the added benefit of motivating people to wake up at their desired times (they don't want to worry their personal networks unnecessarily, and the effort needed to enter in a code makes them less likely to fall back asleep by mistake) =P

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DeletedUser

I really like this interruption-based idea. Not only is it a more secure architectural model than an app you have to activate before the authorities confiscate your device, having at-risk individuals reply to an SMS alert to confirm their continued safety, is potentially lower tech than a mobile app or similar.

Photo of Anne Kjaer Riechert

Great concept. I like the "chain reaction" idea.

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DeletedUser

An automated SMS alert is wonderfully simple and elegant. I like the idea of geo-tagging, in that then you could create a global heat map of incidents (this was another finalist's idea). That map would show clearly areas where this is prevalent. But the simplicity of the "No ping = Alert" is excellent.

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DeletedUser

Might it be possible to coordinate the frequency of pings/check-ins with the level of danger the potential detainee perceives? I'm thinking about ways the information collected from the form could be put to use...

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DeletedUser

I wanted to share some of the photos from our hackathon at Cornell. We were using the methods of Design Thinking to structure our work and it turned out to be an incredibly productive few hours.

Here's a link to the photos: http://flic.kr/s/aHsjwQixwR
And our contributions to the great idea: http://prezi.com/bcn4d3yuccl7/design-thinking/

Let us know if you have any thoughts/comments/suggestions, etc.!

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DeletedUser

Marshall, thanks for supporting the idea and contributing with this great work!

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DeletedUser

Hey- I worked with the Cornell team. We picked this concept because we believe it's the most feasible way to have a real impact on a dangerous situation. Developing this would be an amazing experience and an even better opportunity for change.

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DeletedUser

Very smart approach. I like that instead of requiring the user to activate the alert, you are requiring that the user (or their circles of support) have to regularly deactivate it. This is more of a burden on the user and their network, but if the risk of detention is high, irregular check-in is justified. Furthermore, it is smart that it integrates into existing devices (mobile phones). You could move across technology platforms, depending on the environment (from SMS, to landline, to smoke signals). This system’s structure would work even if the user didn't have a mobile phone.

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DeletedUser

Thank a lot Seth! You have a very clear vision, and great system thinking, I'm impressed!

I applauded your collaboration (Local Currency inspiration), that is an amazing example of system design and social engineering.

Could I ask you (just curiosity) what do you do for living?

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DeletedUser

Hi Alejandro,
Thanks for the kind words...I'm blushing over here. As for what I do for a living, its a bit hard to briefly explain. Its a bit of a mix. Check out my linkedin @ http://www.linkedin.com/in/sethcochran

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DeletedUser

Nice idea. However we were wondering what would happen if the victim fell asleep without typing in to say they are okay.

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DeletedUser

I guess they would wake up and send their OK signal.

There is no doubt the system will have to be design to avoid such scenario. For example, the system should not allow the subscriber to set alarms for less than 1 day. There are too many chances for someone to not being able to sustain a frequency of let's say 30mins or 1 hour.

Photo of Tracy Brandenburg

Thanks Marshall and the Cornell team for adding the pictures of your great prototype! You did amazing work in such a short amount of time!!

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DeletedUser

I like the idea, however, governments and para-government forces of countries with citizens routinely in jeopardy of detention would wise up to such techniques and eventually find ways to nullify them. All the PTB need to do is block the service, by threatening the local cell phone carriers with whatever means necessary. It would take time, but we'd be back to square one.

You could enhance (or complicate) this idea by creating a hardware token which the subject would then have to carry around with them at all times. The token (could simply be an app on the cellphone) would generate a new SMS number every 30 seconds based on a fixed time algorithm that is in sync with the alert service HQ. However, even with today's advancements in phone services, I think generating new SMS numbers at random would be too costly to implement. I'm not certain on that, but would seem so.

The other problem is with the users of such systems, they are prone to false alarms, especially if they are difficult to explain or understand, thus raising cost and lowering efficiency. Imagine at some point nobody would know when to believe an alert, and you would have to somehow penalize people for not following up with the system, if they had gotten careless for example.

Finally, you would have to know in advance that you are a target for detention. That seems a small percentage of people, let's say "professional detainees". I'm not certain the majority of detainees know when they become a target or of the circumstances they are in jeopardy at any given point

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DeletedUser

Thanks for the comment Marlon.

Before posting my inspiration and concept, I realized a lot of people where focusing on the scenario where the detention was unexpected, incommunicado, and unlawful at the same time. But what happen in those scenarios (fairly common) where we do know somebody was detained, we do where they are, but we don't have a legal and "legitim" way to take them out? These are the cases where the detainees need more a legal support than a "war-field" sort of support. The No Ping=Alert ON system is designed to generate institutional alertness around a detainee or a group of detainees who's location is probably know and the identity of their detainers is probably, but even that, there aren't legal resources yet to take them off.

I decided to take way and not another way because the title of the challenge says "unlawful" detention. Now yes, I am not saying other kind of detentions aren't described on the brief, but at least, the fact that this label was chosen for the title (and not other one) had a meaning to me.

The scenarios where a person is "taken away" from their natural flow is more a agressively-changed reality scenario (like a war, a kidnap, a violent protest), and unlawful detention, to me, suggest that the main problem is not only the physical isolation and retention, but also (and probably more important) is the legal impossibility to switch that reality to its previous state.

This is the reason why I also decided to update my entry with a new system layer: Automated Legal Case Preparation, where the main idea is to help cut time on the legal fight that has to happen in order to take somebody back to their regular live.

Photo of Ashley Jablow

Interesting feedback here Marlon - you've raised some really good questions about the feasibility, costs and longevity of this idea. I wonder if you or anyone else from the community has any added builds or suggestions for how Alejandro can address these issues and strengthen his concept? I'm looking forward to seeing how this develops.

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DeletedUser

Ashley, this system already exists in email form (I know of a site called Deathswitch.com). Going the email route is probably more versatile and cheaper than the SMS version because you can rotate originating email address far more cheaply than changing phone numbers.

For a more fail safe version I think you want the system to call you however, not you call the system. So every 24 hours, an email arrives (each day, week or month, from a different origination DNS). The users clicks the link in the email and logs in with a strong password.

Everything is cheaper with the internet version than with the SMS version. The passwords can be more secure, easier to remember and easier for the user to access and change. Also, you can change the originating email server far more easily if offending country tracks it down and attempts to block.

The service itself would need to check that emails are getting through the "national firewall" from time to time for each of its user locales. If it can't get through, it would need to figure another route to send the email. That part could get costly, but I am guessing could probably be automated, thanks to the extremely robust systems in use by email spamming industry.

If the prospective dissident/detainee were being illegally tapped and "sniffed", then it is conceivable our email system could be duped because there's no easy/cheap way of introducing encryption into the mix. But they would have to do something very sneaky first, like prompt the user to change their password, and then attempt to do a man in the middle attack by capturing the https packets. However now we are in the realm of a very desperate kidnapping attempt, and not a very practical concern for the low profile, average detainee.

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DeletedUser

Hey Marlon, again you make strong points! I like that.

Using email as an interface is a great idea. I would say, it is to be added to the SMS interface instead of replace it. The problem with having only an email interface is that you want users on the field, who don't have smartphones to be able to ping the system, and well, SMS is pretty much the only option for those old phones.

Makes me think also that all interfaces should be considered, not only email and SMS. Probably, it wouldn't a bad idea to also have a web interface where the user can just type a secret code into a form and submit (no login needed).

Thanks for the feedback!

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DeletedUser

I just realized something pretty obvious that was skipping my mind: voice should be another interface. The user could also call and dial a secret code.

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DeletedUser

Hey there. We gave it our best shot to build on this... And we'll keep editing, but thought we'd share our progress.

This was created as part of a Hackathon at the Telluride House at Cornell University. We hope you can use the input.

http://prezi.com/bcn4d3yuccl7/design-thinking/

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DeletedUser

Hey Marshall, thanks for the input! Your support it's awesome!

Everything is good, but there are two things that I'd like to highlight:

1) Pattern Analysis. Great and clear concept! thanks! I think that level of intelligence would be necessary in order to avoid entropy in the system (and avoid as much false alarms as possible). It would also be necessary to integrate this intelligence with the organizational level, and understand how man and machine can collaborate in this sense.

2) You integrate The NO ping = Alert ON with another system (your concept). I think that is the best: Understand that the best solution will be the combination of different subsystems. If this ever comes to reality, it will absolutely necessary to keep the system as a ever evolving platform.

I hope that the guys from Amnesty International and the guys from IDEO realize that the best "digital solution" is spread all across this feed of 16 concepts (off course, without ignoring the extra help that Marshall and your colleagues are providing right now ;) ).

I love what's happening here! thanks Open-IDEO !

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DeletedUser

The Wells College Innovation Lab has been searching ideas and we thought yours was very interesting! We began to brainstorm ideas that could possible help this or just be put out there. We came up with a walkie talkie add on for the phone that is similar to the universal emergency number. This could also be a device built into the phone already much like nextel already has for one of their phones on the market. Instead of using the number, you could press a button and talk to a call center run by interns organized by Amnesty International. If the center was run by interns it would be more economically viable for everyone since they don't need to be paid. The reason we are using this kind of technology is because it's quicker to just talk to someone instantaneously than send a text or find a number to call. (Rachel, Hannah, Forrest, Richard, Giavarna)

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DeletedUser

Thank for the comment Rachel!

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DeletedUser

sorry i actually meant to post this on another page....... but i like your idea also!

Photo of Paul Reader

I think this app has potential for those parts of the world where interference with mobile service is unlikely, which is also those parts of the world heavily serviced by mobile phones.
I dont have statistics for the percentage of the populace in other places who own mobile phones but suspect that it is lower than 80%. It seems to me that we need to divide the 'potential detainees' and their families/communities into two distinct groups:
those who can normally be expected to have access to mobile phones and reliable mobile networks; and
those who would normally have no mobile access.
Of course there is likely to be some overlap too.

Apps such as this have potential for the first group.

For those not in the first group low-tech solutions are needed (and probably already used). That was one reason I raised the concept relating to second world war resistance practices as ways to monitor people at risk and send discreet messages in particular circumstances.

Returning to this particular app it would be useful if the mobile network providor was to make the ping free of any costs to the subscriber. Again I would see setting up strategic local mesh networks (including clandestine networks) as either a means of communication where none presently exists or as a 'backstop' for established networks. Such networks would only provide the first 'circle' of response but that could be better than nothing at all.

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DeletedUser

Thanks for the comment Paul (and all of you guys).

I think you are right. It is necessary create some distinction between users and scenarios as well. There won't be one idea that suits all the angles of such a tremendously complicated problem.

The idea concept certainly needs to be polished and better thought in different areas:
- Management: How to use as less resources as possible while generating as much impact as possible? i think that helping Amnesty International to solve this problem has a huge symbolic value that a lot of people and institution will be willing to bet on (just for the sake of being involved). From this assumption, many possibilities become visible: help on volunteers for management and legal assistance, help from institutions like operators, media, labs and universities, etc, etc. This takes me to the next point:
- Strategic Communication: strategic in a sense of "keeping the project hidden from the enemy" and at the same time strategic on a sense of "seducing the right people/institutions to get involved".
- from a system perspective, the fact of having to build an online system for this, sets the precedent that other "online concepts" should be linked to this idea and integrated into a more robust technological solution, for example, the wiki concept and this concept should be consider as a consolidated effort. Imaging sending the right information along with every smart alert (a ping that contains the right info in order for people to act).
- Security. Marlon's point about security is very valid, but I can't stop thinking, once the detainee physical phenomena (whether it's about a small or a big organization) has the power to take down a technological structure. In any case, no technology is perfect, and no system will survive to a human force that has the strength and the intelligence to solve that puzzle (how to take that system down).
- User action: this concept is based on the fact that the human brain reacts unexpectedly during high stress situations. Making the user generate any sort of action in order to trigger the alert seems to me way more dangerous than using the "non-action" strategy (that's my opinion anyway).
- False alarms. Marlon is completely right here. That's the first weakness I saw on this concept. Yet, with the same systems thinking this problem could be solved. But that solution couldn't be thought clearly until the concept moved to a more real scenario (too many variables to be considered). Still, I hope I'll have the time to polish that part during the upcoming days.

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DeletedUser

I tried to update my entry with this, but apparently there isn't enough space, so here it goes:

Automated Legal Case Preparation: When the alert crosses the family circle and moves onto the institutional circle, it will trigger a call to a Artificial Intelligence that collects information relating the detainee and put it together in a single place.

Photo of Meena Kadri

Great break-down of your Concept, Alejandro – I especially like the way that you've used a scenario to help others engage with your ideas.

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DeletedUser

Thanks for your comment Meena!

I'll keep this highlight in mind while growing this concept.