Having recently moved to San Francisco and traveling throughout Asia I thought of a way to use technology to help the homeless or folks who are otherwise in-need. I also observed that quite a few of the homeless had and were using cellphones near free wifi locations. Here's the simple premise for my proposed solution:
1.) Build a mobile app that works on most low cost smart phones
2.) Build a crowd sourcing app / web portal that facilitates the DONATIONS of cash, clothing, health care services, personal grooming services, etc...
a.) Provide a mechanism that allows local business and larger corporate sponsors to donate relevant material or services with geo-location capability to deliver services
b.) Provide an opensource platform that allows developers to provide free development support of app and supporting components to include language translations for global deployment
c.) Build out smartphone donation functionality that allows older outdated smartphones to be donated for this ecosystem
3.) The mobile app would have the following features / attributes:
a.) Most features of the phone would be disabled via firmware flashing - except for emergency calling; this would make the phone only useful for providing services within this ecosystem for the only installed app. This would prevent theft and or abuse of the mobile phone and data network.
b.) GPS location data would be enabled to allow location and google places proximity queries based on donated services locations. When the user is near a homeless shelter or "donated service" a proximity alert would trigger a audible and vibrating notification to help them locate, navigate, and get services rendered
c.) IMU / motion sensors would be enabled determine phones resting, moving, driving, state etc..
d.) Simple UI that allows for the quick an easy "How are you feeling today" button with corresponding smiley faces (similar to how hospitals identify level of pain). This would allow the user to submit how they are doing or could be used to find mental healthcare services, warm blanket, or food, etc...)
e.) Job postings could be made easily accessible on the app that would make it easier for companies who have relevant jobs could target these users. Even jobs that are temporary could have times and map / directions provide on app.
f.) Temperature sensors in combination with GPS location on the phone would provide real-time data that could be used to deliver notification messages to find shelter and for long-term data analysis for municipalities on when and where to provide emergency services
4.) Any money donated would be managed by board volunteers to be distributed to services / services providers that render services on the app. - this could be automated later by rating system or performacne reviews based on how each services is actually delievered via the phone
5.) Google is developing an extremely low cost smartphone - I would propose we partner with Google to donate a number of these news phones and Google Fi network access to provide internet / cell phone connectivity. The bandwidth required would be relatively low
6.) The user would use the phone as a Passport to access donated services and would be personally secured by their fingerprint / pass code. By making the phone valuable only to the authenticated user by phone security features and incentivising the user with food, clothing, healthcare services, etc. the user would do their best to keep the phone charged and in good working order. Perhaps donations could be used to provide a small solar charging pack.
7.) Provide a way for pedestrians who want to provide donations using a mobile-to-mobile or bar code scanning feature instead of giving cash to homeless on the street directly. The money donated would be converted to goods & services via direct donation and could be a force-multiplier for collecting funds.
8.) Perhaps municipalities would also participate and offer phones and services to help reduce the homeless population - the ultimate goal :)