Mapping out the most influential apps to date is sort of like naming the Storm of the Century in 2010. A bit futile because apps have only been around for less than 10 years, and yet, they flood tech media and Western consciousness as if they have always been. They have already fundamentally changed the way we live our lives, lives that keep fundamentally changing ever and ever faster.
Picking a universal #1 app is all but impossible, but one that will be on the top 10 of the vast majority of smartphone users is Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOGL)’s Waze. We tend to think of Waze as just a convenient traffic work-around of the 21st century, but dig a little deeper and we can see the app saves lives. 9.6 million people have died on the roads in the US since the turn of the 20th century. Only 1.35 million Americans have been killed in wars since the American Revolution. To say traffic accidents win by a landslide is an understatement.
For those in the vicinity of them, accidents are not just a delay and inconvenience. They are dangerous to be close to. Accidents breed more accidents with rubberneckers and the like. Simply by connecting drivers in real time, Waze helps drivers steer clear of danger, not just delays. But what if we took the Waze concept of connecting people in real time, and instead of applying it to traffic, we apply it to crime?
This is the concept behind RedZone Map, developed by Helios and Matheson Analytics Inc. (NASDAQ:HMNY). RedZone uses geotagging and crowdsourcing, mixed in with government-sourced crime reports and statistics in order to give users information about the safety of their routes.
At first the concept may seem a bit tacky. Is anyone really that concerned about being carjacked on their way to the grocery store or to work or home on a daily commute they’ve done 1000 times before? Probably not, but on the other hand, tourists and travelers really do want to know how many car thefts have occurred in the parking lot that they’ll be leaving their car in for the next few days while they’re off skiing or hiking. And tourists who are not familiar with a given area really do want to know which places to avoid. The once infamous Miami bumper sticker “Come back to Miami! We weren’t shooting at you!” comes to mind.
Unfortunately for prospective Waze investors 10 years ago, the company was never public until Alphabet, then Google, acquired it in 2013 for $1.3 billion. But Helios and Matheson is, and it could become the next Waze, with even broader application than real-time traffic. That may sound fanciful, until we look into the numbers. Rezone was the #4 app on the App Store when released, just behind Google Maps and Waze in the US. The app launched in London in April, and was #3 there within the first week. It is already catching on in a big way.
Reporting crime in real time
What makes crime successful in the most basic sense is its privacy. Criminals succeed because most people do not know where, or when, they occur. They get caught as victims, just like traffic jams. The more people that know about car accidents as they happen, the less they affect drivers. It’s the exact same thing with crime.
Here we get into a deeper aspect of RedZone, and that is, while Waze is almost exclusively for drivers, RedZone extends into the B2B business model. Businesses staking out an area want to know exactly what the risks are, and there is no better way of knowing than crowdsourcing. Think banks, jewelry stores and the like. Not only businesses, but those looking to buy real estate who want to know the crime rate and history for any given location, that data becomes very valuable and salable as a package from large corporations, down to mid-level real estate investors, and all the way down to retail buyers looking for a new home in a safe neighborhood.
Beyond preventing and mitigating the effects of crime, RedZone can help in streamlining price discovery on a macroeconomic scale by helping uncover economic realities where before they were not clearly known by market participants.
At its best, Waze evens out traffic patterns so that drivers avoid problematic areas. RedZone aims to dilute crime by making it immediately known to others and the authorities thereby making it less successful. Whether it be burglary, a shooting, or chasing down a fugitive, once users are connected, taking care of the problem by cornering the criminal becomes a much simpler task.
The possibilities are even beyond a crime in a country in peacetime, a “first world problem” as it were. RedZone could eventually help keep people navigate warzones in times of danger and political unrest. Think Venezuela, a country where Smartphones are already helping people find basic supplies in a country ravaged by hyperinflation and price controls.
It may not be very long until the time where Amber Alerts and the police tip hotline are considered ancient relics. Whether or not it is the RedZone app itself that catapults us into the new age of crime fighting, it is clear that this is the direction in which we are headed. And this time, unlike with Waze, investors have the opportunity to get in early.
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