The distributed nature of blockchain technology lends itself to improving certain kinds of government functions. In fact, according to major tech consultants, including Ernst & Young, blockchained applications have the potential to completely reinvent and dramatically improve all aspects of government operations while dropping costs.
Guardium is a blockchain start-up with the goal of dramatically improving emergency responses – globally – not just in developed countries. Even in first world countries, the system is inefficient, frequently slow and very expensive. In the developing world, such civil protection and response is the purview of only the very rich. Most people remain vulnerable to not only crime but non-existent or almost non-functioning civil services like ambulance response.
We recently sat down with Mark Jeffrey, the co-founder of Guardium to have a chat with them about the project as well as finding out their thoughts and insights.
Mark and Chris. Thanks for joining us today. Can you tell us more about yourself and Guardium?
We’re serial entrepreneurs — both of us have been venture-backed in the past by names like Softbank and Intel, and we’ve been senior execs at companies backed by Sequoia and Elon Musk. Transitioning to the token-sale backed universe has been an interesting study in contrasts.
Guardium is a global decentralized 9-1-1. When you’re in trouble, push a button and we generate a flash-mob of qualified help from the people and resources already near you. Imagine 10 people arriving in three minutes, anywhere on earth. That’s the vision.
You describe emergency services as essentially broken, even in the first world and developed economies. Can you elucidate on that – and explain the reason why this is the case.
Most people on earth — definitely four billion, but this number could be as high as six billion — have no 911. For these people, there is no magic number you can call when you’re in trouble. Lawlessness is the No. 1 problem in the world today. All other problems — hunger, violence, lack of water — stem from lawlessness. If you want to solve these things, you have to tackle lawlessness and safety first.
Although these people have no 911, they DO have mobile devices — and they have each other. An open emergency grid where regular people can band together to start addressing safety issues goes a long way toward fixing this.
In India, where a woman is sexually assaulted every 15 minutes and she calls the police, the police typically assault her as well. The answer is not ‘more police’. A citizen-based response of some kind is the only answer.
For the other one billion of us who have 911 — it’s not very good. It hasn’t changed since the 1960’s. When you call 911 on a mobile device, they have no idea where you are — Uber can find you more easily than 911. This is because the federal government vastly underestimated the popularity of mobile devices — and instead of expanding federal funding they kicked the can to the states to make up the funding difference. States have their own problems: roads, schools, etc. and enhancing 911 is never prioritized.
We do a lot better with mobile devices and an open API that lets anyone plug any emergency alert device and response service into a new cloud emergency grid. We need to build it outside the regular 911 infrastructure — 911 is “too big to fix”. Just like Uber could not have succeeded by integrating with existing taxi services, due to entrenched interests and culture, we need to create a new system from scratch — and then, later, invite municipalities to connect with us.
How did you come up with the idea and what was the thought process behind it?
My (Mark’s) girlfriend had a stroke and was all alone in her garage for half an hour. I found her and took her the hospital in time, and everything is fine now. However, I realized later seven people had been within a thousand yards of her during this event — she simply had no way to alert them. She was literally drowning in help — but couldn’t access it. She was debating calling 911, but once you summon an ambulance, you also summon a $20K bill, so many just forego that call — and she was trying to ‘tough it out’ because of that. Since her brain had shut down, she couldn’t type or talk so this eliminated the 911 dial option anyway.
I said to myself, someone has to have created an app to summon nearby help! When I looked, I found there were a lot of ‘panic button apps’ that simply sent a text message with a link to five emergency contacts. I realized if I had gotten a text — even from her! — that said, “Heather is in trouble! Click here to see her position and help her,” I would immediately suspect that link of being spam. I would think her phone had been hacked. I wouldn’t click the link — I would CALL her. So the ACTUAL result of all these apps in a real emergency is that Heather would have a ton of inbound phone calls, which do her absolutely no good. All five callers don’t even know about the other four. All five don’t know which one of them is closest, and all five cannot communicate at all.
Instead, she needed a way to push a button or call for help, and for all the people who could help her to immediately be sharing their location on a map, and to have a chat room where they could all coordinate their efforts to assist her — without requiring these helpers to all know each other in advance. We needed an ‘Alert Room’ to instantly be formed — a ‘war room’ for solving Heather’s problem.
That’s what we built, that became Guardian Circle. Later, we realized a new class of vetted citizen responders should ALSO be added to this response team, like doctors, nurses and EMTs, and they should be paid. This is how Guardium was born.
What is the biggest problem within the industry or do you think there is a gap in the market for Guardium to fill?
Everyone we talk to agrees that the world needs a better emergency grid, based on modern mobile tech and that it’s possible to build it. That’s the good news. The challenge is in crafting legal agreements and having response protocols that keep the responders legal and safe themselves. Fortunately, there are a lot of legal precedents and protocols we can draw on pioneered by-products like LifeAlert (“I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”) and OnStar that provide private emergency response today. Internationally, there is an even greater precedent for private emergency response in places like South America, India and Africa.
What do you think is the biggest problem Guardium will solve and why is the problem important to solve?
Lawlessness and safety. These are the roots of all other problems. In a lawless society, education is not possible. Prosperity is not possible. Of course, we can’t solve it all — but we can put a huge dent in it. And a dent will be enough for a whole lot of people. If we can make emergency response 500% better 70% of the time … that’s a massive uptick.
Editors Pick: Guardium ICO
Blockchain has huge potential to help government services – including civil protection and emergency response – function better, quicker and cheaper.. According to Ernst & Young blockchain-based solutions have the potential to make government operations more efficient. This is good on its surface of course. But it also will simultaneously
You have developed your own proprietary blockchain for this project. Why?
We looked at Ethereum and saw that it would soon hit theoretical scaling limits and become unusable — that then actually happened with CryptoKitties. Secondarily, ETH transactions are now $3, which is beyond the means of most people in the world, which means we can’t use it. The only way we could ensure a scalable blockchain with reasonable transaction fees in the near term was to create our own. We deal in emergencies: our tolerance for hiccups is very, very low — and the technical volatility still afoot in both ETH and BTC was just way outside of our tolerance range.
Regulation-wise, what are the toughest challenges you will have to overcome (on a global basis)? And from where?
It’s creating the legal framework for vetted citizen response. That will have to be looked at in every country we deploy in.
What are the services you plan to offer that excite you the most?
Fast and rich response, anywhere on earth. It excites me most to deliver that where it has never existed before in any form.
What has been your happiest moment so far working on Guardium? On the flipside, what has been the most painful, or perhaps the most regretful decision you’ve made with Guardium?
When we launched the original apps on iOS, Android and Alexa.
We constructed everything in Cordova so that we could deploy on iOS and Android with one codebase. In retrospect, I’m not sure I would have done it that way. I might have gone native code on both platforms but if we had done that, we’d very likely only be on iOS and have nothing for Android. I go back and forth on that decision.
Tell us more about GUARDIUM. What are its selling points and what does it do in the system?
Guardium flash-organizes trusted citizen and professional response. It uses mobile, location-sharing, voice and wearable technologies to do so. Guardium is used to form emergency response subscription contracts and as a form of settlement. It is also used to let you and me sponsor safety in the developing world: by sending Guardium directly to a beneficiary, it does not go through a bank, a government, or an organization, so we KNOW our money was not spent inefficiently, or inappropriately (so: Red Cross in Haiti can’t happen). Track every donated penny as easily as a FedEx package.
All Alert Transcripts are stored on the Guardium blockchain, including conversations, locations and time Alert was answered. Encryption keys are then handed to the alerting party, who retains custody.
Guardium provides a blockchain-based emergency info lockbox, which lets you create a record of information that is only released when you declare an emergency.
Moving on to more personal stuff, what does a typical day in your life look like?
We usually have several meetings during the day right now surrounding our token sale or press or conference related activities. Half of the time, we’re on the road. I’m looking forward to being off the road for a month right now to focus solely on the next generation of product, that will be nice.
Can you express one personal opinion of yours about the blockchain? It doesn’t matter if it’s negative or positive, we just want to hear your thoughts on it.
Blockchain is the most important invention since the internet — it may even turn out to be more important. A way to create truly fair money for all, for the first time in history. There’s never been an actual level playing field where all have an equal shot — until now.
Finally, what other personal goals (besides your career) do you have in life? Is there anything else in life you want to achieve?
Yes! I have several more novels that I’d like to write. I’ve written seven, both self-published and published by HarperCollins. I have notes started
That concludes our Interview with Mark Jeffrey
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