Anyone who has ever had to call 112 in an emergency knows the feeling. When you get the switchboard operator on the line, you have to think carefully about where you are and what happened. It is even worse when you are abroad. How should you make it clear what happened and where exactly? Thanks to Emergency Eye, that problem is over. Not only is it possible to know immediately where the accident happened by phone, the operator can also look directly at what is going on via the camera of a smartphone and make decisions based on that information. You don’t even have to speak the same language.

The chat function in the system immediately recognizes which language is set on the smartphone and translates all comments and instructions from the man or woman at the switchboard. The great thing is that no one needs to download a special app for it. It all works via the software system of the alarm center. In Germany, 160 of the ca. 250 control rooms now have this system. Günther Huhle, who founded this company together with his wife Carola Petri, tells Innovation Origins how the idea for Emergency Eye was born.

How did you come up with the idea for this emergency call system?

“The reason was very unpleasant. My wife and I went on a motorcycle tour of Brittany in 2016. My wife was behind me. At one point, we were hit by a car. My wife was severely injured. I immediately called the emergency number. Because of the language barrier, communication went very badly. I didn’t know exactly where we were and couldn’t make it clear what was going on. In the end it took 90 minutes before my wife could be transported. It was a traumatic experience. Much later, we talked at home about the fact that such an emergency call should be possible. My son Viktor, who was 16 at the time, came up with the idea to use a smartphone for that, especially because nowadays almost everyone has one. That led to the founding of our company.”

What’s special about Emergency Eye?

“The special thing is that it’s not an app. There are already a lot of apps on the market that can automatically report an accident. But they all work in a different way. In fact, Emergency Eye is a software application in the emergency call center of the emergency services. As soon as a report is received, the operator sends a link to that smartphone. From that moment on, he is not only able to locate the exact location of the accident, he can also use the phone’s camera to assess the situation on the spot.”

“This allows him to decide which emergency services need to be alerted. It can mean the difference between sending an ambulance or a rescue helicopter. We have just launched a new version of the system so it is now also possible to set up a chat between caller and operator. This is not only a solution for people with a hearing problem, the chat can also translate everything at the same time. The system immediately recognizes in which language the phone is set up and translates in the chat all messages from the operator and vice versa.”

Were there any obstacles that had to be taken at the start?

We realized from the outset that our biggest problem is the privacy provisions. That is why we contacted international experts on privacy protection and data security directly. Privacy and data protection is our top priority.

Also, in the beginning it was difficult to figure out who exactly you need to talk to sell this system. Because it concerns control rooms of official emergency services, the purchase is not just a technical consideration, but often also a political decision. We did have the great advantage that we developed the system in consultation with people from the control rooms’ practice which made the introduction easier. At this point, 160 of the 250 control rooms in Germany already have this system.”

With Emergency Eye an operator has all the information at hand immediately. obs/Corevas GmbH & CO.KG

What are you particularly proud of?

We are particularly proud that as a family business we were able to collaborate very quickly with large parties from the world of communication. Of course, we are also proud that as a family, we have achieved this together with our employees. This is also only possible because we all believe in the product. And very recently we received the message that our patent on the system has been granted.”

Are there similar apps or systems on the market?

There are apps on the market that can also provide a location in the event of an accident, but they’re not all that sophisticated. Plus, you have to get one of those apps first.

What are you particularly proud of?

We are particularly proud that as a family business we were able to collaborate very quickly with large parties from the world of communication. Of course, we are also proud that, as a family, we have achieved this together with our employees. This is also only possible because we all believe in the product. And very recently we received the message that our patent on the system has been granted.”

Are there similar apps or systems on the market?

There are apps on the market that can also provide a location in the event of an accident. But that’s not all that sophisticated. And you have to download an app like that first. We’ve flipped it. Nobody has to download anything. The dispatcher makes sure you have the best possible contact. There are now companies that want to imitate us, but thanks to that patent, that won’t happen.

Where will the company be in five years?

In five years we want to have developed our product even further. We have therefore added artificial intelligence. Currently it’s up to the switchboard operator to make all necessary decisions, but we want that process to be supported by artificial intelligence, since the operator is only human. We will make the system self-learning, so that the experiences of previous incidents can be included in the handling of any new emergency call.

By that time we will also have introduced ‘speech-to-speech’ so it won’t matter which language you speak. The system translates everything for you. There will undoubtedly be many more new things to come. Every year we organize the ‘Hackathonamring” – a hackathon at the Nürburgring (German racing circuit; ed.). There, in a session with people with hearing problems, the idea came up for the chat function. From that session will undoubtedly come further new functions for Emergency Eye.

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Photo caption: The operator in the control room can immediately obtain a picture of the accident via the camera of a smartphone with which the report was made.