At Flying Saucer, our mission is to work with businesses who are searching for creative solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems. We recently attended Web Summit with the goal of interacting with more impact brands, and while we met numerous incredible, passionate teams, we did a roundup of the absolute 10 coolest startups we met while there. This article is part of a series showcasing these individual startups and what they’re doing to positively impact the world - be sure to check out the others and subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest news on everything impact!
I think we can all relate - you hear a story on the radio about someone going missing, and you feel that pang of sympathy for them, their family, and everyone who knows them. But that pang is never quite as exquisite as when the person missing is a child. It was exactly this kind of story that spawned our next feature on the Impact Brand named To The Rescue.
In Latvia, a 5-year old boy named Ivan went missing from his home in the little town of Liepāja. Over 9,000 people, including many different kinds of first responders and members of the public, came together to search for this boy in a heartwarming example of a community coming together to support their own. They searched for over 10 days, but unfortunately, this tale ended in tragedy when he was found dead, 12.5 miles from his home.
As a new father, Co-Founder and CEO of Chili Labs, Igor Nemenonoks heard this story and his heart just broke — it’s every parent’s worst nightmare. He knew he had to help. Given his company’s experience creating mobile apps, he headed to the folks who were on the ground, Bezvests, who coordinated the search for the missing boy and started asking some really tough, but smart questions.
How did it go wrong? What could they have used to make their search more efficient? What did they think was the crucial factor in their failure to save the boy?
The answers were almost unanimous: Resource Management & Coordination. The volunteers and first responders were using paper maps and walkie talkies to try and stay organized on the ground and in constant communication — a method that is common, but really hard to get right. Especially when you’re working with folks who have a “gut feeling” and wander off the beaten path — it’s an emotional process and the desire to find the missing person can sometimes outweigh good sense.
The debrief following the search and rescue for Ivan revealed that he had been alive just two days prior to being found. It also revealed that certain geographical areas had been searched by volunteers up to 45 times - and some areas, including the one where has was found, had never been searched at all. The frustration everyone felt at having been so close was striking.
There had to be a better solution. Surely given the technological advancements that we’ve made, we can do better, right? The obstacles in rescue missions are considerable; rough terrain, communications dead zones, inclimate weather and temperatures, not to mention the sheer multitude of personnel to coordinate. But, Igor and his team felt like they could tackle it given enough grit, guts and ingenuity. They went out with rescue workers at Bezvests on actual searches to see how the process works, to inform their solution and make sure it would be practical and as useful as it can be.
What they developed is an out-of-the-box solution that organizations can use on their own hardware — which is pretty unprecedented and allows for a level of flexibility that will make this an incredible tool. Organizations who use the platform can get their own app that can be custom branded and can even request specific features that would make the platform fit their needs better than it already does. It can also be integrated with technology that allows the use of drones equipped with heat vision — rescuers or rescue animals can be sent to heat signatures that register in the human range to see if it’s the person that’s missing, or an animal, saving crucial time and resources.
They created the app thinking about missing person cases but soon realized that it has many other applications. Forest/brush fires, evidence collection at a crime scene, avalanches… the applications for this technology are varied and legion!
For now, the service is only available in Latvia - though due to their participation in the EU Missing Children Coalition they have an agreement for it to be used in Lithuania as well. It’s been live for about 18 months, but another 18 months were spent in the research and development phases to get it right.
And get it right they did. To The Rescue has been used to save 12 lives to date. Twelve. Lives.
Impact Brand? You bet. We can’t think of anything more impactful than saving honest-to-goodness lives, people. Seriously, check these guys out. They have hearts of gold and have done this all pro bono at this point. We can’t wait to see where they go from here!
P.S. If the Canadian Government, The Red Cross, or Doctors Without Borders are watching — we think you should give these folks a look. This solution could make all of the amazing work that you’re doing in really vast, geographic areas with connectivity problems a wee bit easier. Just sayin’!