Microsoft Launches HelpBridge For iOS, Windows Phone And Android

HelpBridge, a free new mobile app from Microsoft, aims to support those primary needs. Available today in the U.S. for Windows Phone, Android, and iOS, HelpBridge is designed to make it easy to connect with friends and family during a large-scale disaster such as an earthquake or a hurricane. It also enables users to give time, money and resources to support relief and rebuilding efforts.

When disasters occur, the first thing people who were impacted want to do is to reach friends and family, said James Rooney, program manager for Microsoft Citizenship’s Technology for Good program, which developed the app. HelpBridge lets users build a list of friends and family they would want to contact in an emergency. With a few swipes, they can let all those contacts know via SMS, email or Facebook if they’re OK or if they need help. The alert can also give a user’s exact location via their phone’s GPS capabilities.

People can use the app to donate funds quickly to a broad range of relief agencies including the American Red Cross, CARE and Global Giving. They can also find out what goods and resources relief agencies on the ground need — making sure they send items such as tents, gloves, and pet food to the right places. Finally, HelpBridge lists real-time volunteering opportunities posted by relief agencies, enabling users to directly or indirectly support relief efforts with their time.

The app is called HelpBridge, and Microsoft says it was designed to be “disaster-agnostic” so that it could be used for many situations rather than just one specific event. One of its features allows users who are either in the middle of a disaster such as a hurricane or an earthquake to set up a list of family or friends who can be contacted quickly.

[quote]When disaster strikes, you don’t want to be fumbling with your phone and trying to find your mom’s number,” said Tony Surma, chief technology officer for Microsoft’s Disaster Response team.Tony Surma.[/quote]

The app also allows anyone to donate money or goods to charitable organizations after such an event has occurred and to find groups on the ground that they can join for more direct assistance. Finally, it lets people who need help after a disaster to quickly message others asking for assistance.

Microsoft naturally used its own Windows Azure services to serve as the backend for HelpBridge. The company has also partnered with organizations such as Mobile Giving Foundation, VolunteerMatch, Aidmatrix and Network for Good in the development of HelpBridge.

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