Last year, George Perera, who lives in Miami and has worked in law enforcement for 24 years, decided there was something missing from our homeland security ecosystem. In our post-9/11 world, we are constantly urged to be on the lookout for suspicious packages, trucks, activities, and so on. But who actually takes the time to say something when they see something? Who wants to wait 15 minutes on a non-emergency line? Perera himself doesn't, and his passion is homeland security! So he did the logical thing. He hired a coder, and made an app.
That app, which he spells "isee-isay" but which I'll help him rebrand as the marginally sexier iSee-iSay, goes live today, on all four major smartphone platforms. That's a rarity among developers. Often iPhone comes first, with an Android straggler later. But Perera was serious about this from the beginning, and he sunk a considerable sum of money, the exact amount of which he declines to share, to make those four apps so that smartphone owners across the country would not be unable to say, whenever they saw.
"I just thought there was a gap here," Perera tells Fast Company. "Everybody is walking around with smartphones, they're using these things for all these applications. I'm saying, 'Why hasn't Homeland Security put out an app yet for this?"
Users can simply and anonymously report white vans, brown paper bags, loud ticking, people with cameras, the sounds of footsteps in the woods, or anything else suspcious that they see. That info is sent to a "fusion center" in their respective state, which has staffers from the FBI, DHS, and so on at hand to review the reports, according to Perera.
Does he worry about a high rate of false positives? "You get false positives now," he says. "Yes, you get those. But you know what? If you get one good one and can stop a 9/11 situation, or like the train in England, if you can stop one of those and save 100s or 1,000s of lives, it was worth it."
This was a gift from Perera to you; he funded this out of his own pocket, and the app is free. His hope is that DHS might take notice, and acquire the app, or maybe hire Perera to run DHS's own version of the app—something like that. But he's only had "low-level conversations" with DHS. There's no guarantee that any fraction of the untold thousands he's spent on behalf of homeland security will find their way back into his pocket.
OK, so it may not nab Kleiner Perkins investments anytime soon, or make Perera a billionaire. It may not be the next killer app. But that's fine with Perera. He set out to make an app to catch killers.
[Image: Flickr user thunderchild7]