The Beacon is an SMS based community alert and messaging system. Participants check in to The Beacon daily. If they fail to check in friends and family are alerted; if many people stop checking in suddenly, alerts are sent out to members nearby.
The Beacon is a service that if adopted widely enough could ensure that populations could not simply disappear without anyone knowing about it.
The core concept behind this idea is that of a deadman's switch, which operates by sending a signal precisely when the operator is incapacitated (see also Mary-Lynn Bragg's inspiration
"Watching for Missing Signs from Afar").
Participants check in daily to The Beacon by sending an SMS with their personal passcode. To incentivize users to participate The Beacon will proactively send out daily messages as reminders. During normal peace time, these messages would contain useful news, weather, health tips, or whatever other kind of information would be valuable to share (
inspired here by MOTECH
). In other words, there will be several different value propositions for users here.
If a user fails to check in
for three days
- and hasn't said they want to just stop using the service - then a notification will be sent to a designated list of contacts like friends and family. These are designated during the sign-up process or subsequently thereafter.
If all of a sudden many users stop checking in one day, then The Beacon will automatically send out an alert to nearby Beacon users. In addition, users can also report suspicious behavior or sightings of hostile forces back to The Beacon, which will then synthesize incoming information and send it back out to users. Any such alerts would also be publicized online anonymously so that information isn't owned or restricted.