At last year’s BlueLightCamp, I proposed a project that was eventually called Search Party. It’s basic premise was that when communities come together to help emergency services with searches, we could use the mass adoption of smartphones to allow the search commanders to more effectively co-ordinate searches.

Search Party - User InterfaceHere’s a rundown of how it would work;

  1. Search co-ordinators (usually the local Police) would set up a search, and there would be a unique web address for this.
  2. Folks wanting to help with the search would be given this address and they’d visit it using their smartphone (it might be useful to handle out QR codes to scan).
  3. When the smartphone-wielding searcher loads up the page, it asks their name and perhaps some other info.
  4. Back at the search HQ, the co-ordinator has a dashboard with a map showing where each searcher is. They can select each searcher, see their details and chat or call them via their phone.
  5. Optionally, a searcher can turn on their camera and the central co-ordinator can view that video, perhaps using it to ask searchers to check certain things they may have overlooked.

By the end of BlueLightCamp ’13, the team that had assembled on the project had made some progress, but nothing that worked quite well enough. We had some issues with the map display amongst others.

But the code is still available, and is ripe for being picked up again by someone else. It’s a great concept, and myself and the team really wanted to continue with it after the event. Life got in the way for me, and I suspect everyone else. So, here’s a step-by-step for how you, oh BLC14 attendee (get your ticket!), can pick it up and what needs doing…

  1. Find yourself somewhere you can put the project files to be served to the web (i.e. some cheap hosting)
  2. You need to clone the Git repo (ask one of the BLC team for push access), like so;
    git clone
  3. Now set up a MySQL (or equivalent) database and import the setup.sql script to set up the database.
  4. Create a config.php file with the variables $host, $username, $password, $db_name to provide the database connection details.
  5. We were using Leaflet JS with the Cloudmade API (because we couldn’t get OS OpenSpace to work) but the Cloudmade service has been suspended. So, take a look at Leaflet JS to sort out the map.
  6. Open up the web address were you’ve stored the project files on your laptop or smartphone and you should be asked for your location and then presented with a map centred on your location.

What you’ll need to do next;

  1. Plot yourself on that map
  2. Ensure the location is correctly entered into the database, and updated regularly
  3. Create the co-ordinators map, sucking the locations from the database and plotting them.
  4. Then decide which of the other features you want to do next; camera, chat, voice calling.

Good luck!

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A few photos from last year’s Hackathon, including some of flip charts used for Search Party

Getting a head start at BlueLightCamp with Search Party
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