Vismo tracks Levison Wood across the Himalayas

Having traversed the Nile, former paratrooper Levison Wood also took up the challenge to walk the 1,700-mile length of the Himalayas. It’s was an even tougher journey than the Nile walk, but on both occasions he was tracked by Vismo.

Levison is one of the few TV explorers who eschews the beaten track, beginning in a very different Afghanistan to the one we see in the news: snow-capped mountains, miles of nothingness and the occasional nomadic tribe. After the chief has ascertained that he’s not a member of ISIS, he’s honoured with a meal of meat and served the best bit: sheep eyeball. His game grin only freezes when the altitude takes its toll and the threat of an avalanche looms.

Levison’s entire journey was documented and is currently being shown on C4.  Beginning in Afghanistan through Pakistan, and Kashmir in India, he pushed himself to his physical limits as he trekked 1,700 miles across the roof of the world, teaming up with local guides and meeting soldiers, monks and nomadic tribes. As well as battling natural obstacles, from punishing terrain to altitudes above 5,000m, Levison had to tread carefully through one of the most fought-over areas of the world but was always confident in the knowledge that if something went wrong (as it did) his support crew would be able to immediately identify his position and offer necessary assistance.

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For further information on Vismo and our work with Levison, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

New Vismo and Apple Watch Panic Alert

You’ve been asking Vismo for a panic button feature that can be operated on the iPhone remotely and without having to enter your security code. Well now you have it!

Vismo has added the Panic Button to the Apple Watch.

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This overcomes the issues of having to unlock your mobile phone to activate the panic, or inadvertently setting off false alarms when using a “shake to panic” type activation.

We still have the “standalone” panic button for those users who want to keep their Panerai or Rolex on their wrist, and we always recommend you install this in the dock of your iPhone for ease of access.

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Don’t forget that Vismo also works on the iPad. www.vismo.com/products/ipad

Where in the World does Vismo work?

I hope you’re well and having a good summer?

I often get asked “Where in the World does Vismo work?“. The answer is “Anywhere there is mobile data”.

Vismo works on a smartphone by using mobile data (GPRS) to send back its location fixes to the Secure Website. If there is no mobile data coverage Vismo can’t send back the location information and as a consequence displaying a travellers position could be delayed for a considerable time. In these areas I would always recommend the use of a satellite phone with GPS or satellite tracker. The options Vismo has for satellite tracking are shown on our product page www.vismo.com/products. All solutions are available for purchase or rent through Vismo.

How can you tell where there is good data coverage around the world? I thought it might be helpful to share a really useful site I stumbled across that shows mobile coverage across the globe.

In the example below I’ve picked Abidjan in the Ivory Coast.

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Clearly you can see good coverage in Abidjan, and then patches of coverage elsewhere. In areas without data coverage Vismo would continue taking fixes on a mobile device, but would have limited opportunity to send those fixes back to be displayed on the Vismo Secure Website.

The site used for viewing data coverage is www.opensignal.com

OpenSignal.com is a company that specialises in wireless coverage mapping. The company crowdsources data on carrier signal quality from users who have its consumer mobile application installed.

If you would like any further information, please don’t hesitate to contact me on +44 (0)1904 616666 or email incomingenquiries@vismo.com. To view our other tracking solutions please visit www.vismo.com

 

Charlie Hebdo Case Study: People-Tracking and Covert Audio-Recording Apps as Part of Crisis Management

When the Kouachi brothers stormed into the offices of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in January, shooting 11 people dead, injuring a further 11 and killing a police officer outside as they left, text alerts quickly alerted 90 users of a people-tracking app.

Quietly and unobtrusively they were given precise coordinates for the incident location and advice about what they should and shouldn’t do, and where they could and shouldn’t go, for their own safety. (And, in case they were in the locality, they were given details of their emergency evacuation, had that been considered necessary).

Most users of the app – designed by Vismo for use with smartphones, iPad, BlackBerry 7 and BlackBerry 10 devices, standalone trackers and the Iridium satellite tracking phone, RockSTAR and the Thuraya satellite tracking device  – were employees of businesses,going about their daily work.

Some were buyers in retail, en route to China. Some worked for financial services organisations. In Paris,only smartphone users (BlackBerry, iPhone or Android devices) were using Vismo that day.

Being satellite-based devices, capable of communicating in areas of poor or no mobile phone signal, the Iridium, Thuraya and RockSTAR phones are not deployed in cities.

Their employers alerted them by text as soon as the incident at the Charlie Hebdo offices was known about. Non-employees (ie, personal subscribers to the app service) were alerted by a text sent from Vismo’s central server.

The precise location of all users of the app were known about either by the employer organisations and Vismo, allowing highly customised, detailed advice to be given to each of them.

It is during incidents like this where technology and associated innovation combines with duty of care (and a willingness to care) by employers – and interest in self preservation by individuals – to produce outcomes whose aim is to minimise risk to life and maximise well being.

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Jérémie Hartmann under CC BY-SA 4.0

About the technology

A phone with the app is turned into a tracking device complete with a panic button that, when activated by the user of the phone, automatically triggers email and text alerts, in real time, to key contacts. The phone also automatically sends covert audio recordings to those contacts, via Vismo’s highly secure central server, enabling the user to optionally send spoken messages and for the phone to send any noises or conversations etc that are being picked up.

Those recordings help one or more third parties, including crisis management teams, to ascertain the risk level and take appropriate action, which can include emergency evacuation or, in the event of a kidnap, a rescue attempt.

Apart from the panic button and covert recording capabilities, included in the technology are:

– GPS Tracking, giving regular GPS fixes of events and allowing a user organisation’s crisis management team to view current locations, historical trails, battery life and signal strength.

– Incident Response, showing the most current position of employees in the vicinity of any incident and sends advice, by text, on what action they should take.

– Geo-Fencing, enabling user organisations to set up “geo-fences” and receive text messages and email alerts when an employee moves into a high risk area or leaves a safe one.

– Online control, enabling user organisations to manage the risk and safety of all affected employees from one secure, central, online location.

– Check-in/check-out, allowing personnel to register their arrival and departure to/from a location, via the app.

Collaboration with emergency services 

 The central server enables liaison between Vismo and emergency services (public and/or private) to share information and increase the likelihood of successful outcomes. Such contact between the parties can start immediately a user of the app activates the panic button, thereby sending an alert to one or more emergency services.

The server integrates all the information being sent from the app, including the audio recordings, with details about the location of the individual or individuals affected. It immediately puts the location and other information into a third party mapping solution that is used by any or all of the emergency services, permitting the earliest possible response from them.

Where an incident requires evacuation of personnel, the app user organisation will send them text messages about how best to get away from the area, including, where appropriate, details of the nearest standby aircraft or other means of evacuation.

It is not only because of the threat of terrorist incidents and kidnaps that the apps are used (and have been used, effectively). They are also deployed in industries with a history of accidents involving fire/explosion and loss of life or injury in case a natural disaster happens.

If the Charlie Hebdo incident taught us two things, they are that an incident can come out of the blue – and that it’s best to be prepared, the preparation perhaps starting with the activation of a panic button on a phone by an individual caught up in whatever will very soon be revealed.

Watch a demo of Vismo’s people-tracking app below:

Vismo tracks 6500km Amazon River Run expedition

In 2015, two adventurers will set off on an expedition to Kayak the 6,500 kilometres of the longest and largest river in the world, the Amazon. Olie and Tarran will be tracked for the entire journey using a combination of Vismo on their mobile phones and the RockSTAR Satellite Tracker for those areas where there is no mobile coverage.

The RockSTAR is ideal for the expedition environment as it offers truly global coverage using the Iridium Network and has a battery life of over 2500 transmission from a single charge…and it’s waterproof which is ideal when you’re going to be spending 3 month in a kayak!

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The Amazon River is made up of hundreds of different rivers with multiple starting points in 5 different countries. The longest tributaries start high up in the Andes mountain range and travel thousands of kilometres east before flowing into the Atlantic Ocean.

To follow Olie’s and Tarran’s epic trip visit www.amazonriverrun.com

To find out more about Vismo RockSTAR visit www.vismo.com/products/rockstar

Travel safer with Vismo

The journey from the airport to the hotel is often the most dangerous for the unsuspecting traveller.

You arrive late in the evening at the airport and having finally worked your way around the complex visa process, you get to arrivals only to find the driver you have booked to take you to the hotel isn’t there. You try unsuccessfully to contact the hotel to send another driver but ultimately resort to taking a chance with a local taxi or one of the “private” drivers hanging around the arrival area.

Once in the taxi you are very much at the behest of the driver and very often have no idea where in the city you are going.

With the latest release of Vismo on your iPhone, your Security Team have already Geo-fenced high risk area of the city and will be notified if your taxi strays into an “unauthorised area”. You will also be able to see these areas on your mobile phone and also receive an alert if you enter the area. Once you receive the notification you can immediately see your position on your iPhone and get your driver to take an authorised route to your hotel. If in doubt the traveller could of course activate the panic button signifying an escalation is required.

Travel safer with Vismo

Vismo’s next exhibition is at the Business Travel Show in the Grand Hall Olympia, London on the 25th to the 26th of February. If you’d like a demo, come and see us on stand B729. Alternatively, visit our new and improved website www.vismo.com.

In Emergencies, Companies Are Turning to Employee-Tracking Services

The recent terrorist attack in Paris put Norm Sheehan, a safety director for an international development company, on high alert.

Employees of his company, Chemonics International, were headed to West Africa through Charles de Gaulle Airport, and he had to find them. So his emergency plan — long in preparation, regularly updated and only sometimes used — went into effect.

Norman Sheehan, safety director at Chemonics International, used an online tracking tool to help locate employees during the recent terrorist attack in Paris. Credit Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

It took more than just a call on their cellphones to help locate the workers during the emergency. Rather, he relied on an online tracking tool, to identify travellers’ plans and their contact information, developed by International SOS, one of a growing number of companies offering such services.

In the case of Chemonics, Mr. Sheehan had little margin for error. There was, he said, “a siege not far from the airport that could have affected runway operations. If it had persisted, we would have advised staff to use different routes.”

Demand for employee-tracking services is increasing, said Mr. Sheehan, a safety and security professional for more than 30 years. “Everyone wants to know where their staff is at all times, if possible,” he said.

The need is driven, for the most part, by so-called duty of care laws, which obligate employers to know their workers’ whereabouts and take measures to ensure their safety.

The result is that businesses of all sizes are purchasing services that make use of GPS, geotracking and other technologies to track their employees from an ever-growing number of suppliers.

International SOS is among the oldest and most established, with clients that have included China National Petroleum. The field also includes iJET, which has worked with Cummins and McDonald’s, and the Anvil Group, a London-based firm whose clients include the BBC and Sky, the European broadcasting company.

A host of new firms are also chasing the business, including Concur, the business travel and expense management subsidiary of SAP; its Concur Messaging service is used by Microsoft, the American International Group and Lego.

BCD Travel, a travel management company, has created a tool that uses itinerary information, an interactive map and text messaging to help clients track their travellers. And American Express Global Business Travel has developed a tool that helps employers track their employees’ corporate credit card activity, potentially useful if smartphone service is lost.

Gone are the days when firms used hard-paper itineraries to keep track of travellers; now GPS technology allows employers to locate employees in circumstances like the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Sydney.

If an emergency occurs, the employer can push out alerts; apps also allow employees to request help, via a virtual panic button on their smartphone.

International SOS even offers clients a GPS-equipped box with a button that can be activated in high-risk situations when there is no Internet or cellphone service.

Travel-tracking tools generally allow companies to continuously locate their employees, but, depending on the service, employees can turn off the tracking.

Another service provided by International SOS, iJET and others to clients is evacuation planning and execution for employees travelling to or based in dangerous locations.

During the Arab Spring in early 2011, as unrest escalated in Libya, International SOS and its partner, Control Risks, a global risk consulting company, established a crisis management team in London, which quickly identified with its travel-tracking tool 760 employees of over 40 corporate clients in Tripoli, Benghazi and the oil fields in south Libya.

With airspace in Benghazi shut down and chaos reigning at the Tripoli airport, the team advised some trapped workers to go to the airport only when it was safe and a flight was likely to depart; it told personnel in remote sites to remain there until evacuation plans were completed.

Geofencing — the ability to monitor the whereabouts of travellers within a tightly defined location — is another relatively new service enabled by GPS. The Anvil Group said this capability was desirable to companies with employees deployed to combat zones and other remote places; it can tell employers if an employee has gone outside a defined area and dispatch help.

But no service is helpful if travellers are not trained to use it, said Ray O’Hara, former head of the security professionals’ trade association, ASIS International, and executive vice president of AS Solution, a security services company in Palm Desert, Calif.

“The general public has to play a role in this,” he said. “They have to understand how the service works, when the device needs to be charged, if it needs to be charged. Their employer has to put a process in place.”

The Anvil Group, for one, has experienced renewed interest in its services in the wake of the Paris terrorist attack, said Cal Pratt, a managing director.

Johnny Thorsen, head of Concur Messaging, said the attack could become a tipping point in how closely companies monitor their employees’ whereabouts.

“If something can happen anywhere, then perhaps it will be O.K. if your company knows where you are every third hour until you’re home,” he said.

Originally published in the New York Times


International SOS, the world’s leading medical and security services company, and Vismo, a leading global service provider of mobile communications, announced a partnership that delivers an enhanced solution for monitoring, tracking, and assisting travellers to high risk and remote locations. Read more

Vismo Walks the Nile

On 3rd December 2013, Levison Wood took the first steps of his 4,250 mile expedition, beginning a unique exploration of the continent in the most ambitious and intimate way possible: walking every step of the Nile from source to delta and in the process encountering modern Africa – its people and its wildlife – face to face and from ground level.

It wasn’t just one of the last, great ‘firsts’ in global exploration but also opened up a cross-section through a continent undergoing extraordinary change, and revealed details of six very different but equally fascinating countries.Technologyvismo
Continue reading

Vismo gives you pings…

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Vismo has supplied Red Bull with Android tracking for their “Can you make it?” competition.

The idea is that 100 teams of students attempt to travel across Europe with nothing but Red Bull cans as currency. The first team to make it to Berlin gets a massive party thrown for them and something to make their CV sparkle.

The rules are simple; the teams start at one of the many checkpoints across Europe and have to make their way through a route devised by Red Bull which includes a number of checkpoints. At each checkpoint the teams get tasked with a fun challenge and rewarded with more cans of Red Bull to barter with if they succeed.

They are not allowed money (although emergency funds are provided to get them out of any tight spots), personal phones, pre-organised modes of transport and they are not allowed to use frequent flyer miles either. All each team has is 24 cans of Red Bull.

Each team is equipped with a Moto G phone with Vismo installed so that the race organisers can track the location of the team’s positions and if something goes wrong the team can raise the alert by pressing the panic button. Also, all the check points have been geo-fenced so the organisers know when one of the teams reaches it.

The screen shot below shows the teams on the Vismo Secure Website as they move toward Berlin.

For more information on the Red Bull “Can you make it?” competition, visit https://www.redbullcanyoumakeit.com/details.

Vismo launches dedicated global satellite tracking

Vismo now has a Global Tracking Solution for areas where there is no mobile coverage i.e. mountains ranges, oceans or desert.

The RockSTAR tracker is a rugged and fully self-contained battery operated, satellite tracker which works anywhere in the World. The tracker will wake up when required (e.g. every 15 minutes), obtain a position using the GPS satellite network, and then transmit that position back to the Vismo Secure Server in seconds.

The RockSTAR also allows short messages (like SMS, social media updates and short emails) to be sent using a paired Bluetooth device (such as a smartphone) and the Messenger app. This allows for full two-way communication wherever you are, even when out of mobile network range.

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If the RockStar is the solution you’ve been looking for, and you’d like further information please, don’t hesitate to Contact Us.