Readers of this blog probably know about the free iPhone app that I've released just before summer called the I'm Fine App (thanks to @pascalculator for the birdie logo). The application lets your friends and family know (through email or Facebook) that you're doing fine or that you need help. This can be handy in several situations from going to a festival to going on a dangerous hike in the mountains.
The idea for the app emerged after a heavy storm hit Pukkelpop - a large Belgian festival - and we were unable to contact any of our friends after panic broke out and the cell phone network became overloaded and unusable. The I'm Fine App was an experiment to create a mobile app in under 24 hours and while we faced some delay to get accepted in Apple's app store, some of our Belgian colleagues beat us to it and launched a similar app called Heezle. All credit for being the first in the app stores goes to them.
Made in Belgium
It's not a coincidence that both Heezle and the I'm Fine App were created right before the new festival season started in Belgium. Everybody here knows at least one person that was at the festival the day the deadly storm hit and many people have been thinking about a solution to get in touch with friends and family in case such a tragedy would happen again in the future.
Heezle and the I'm Fine App serve the same purpose but are different when it comes to getting in touch with parents and friends who aren't on Facebook or Twitter. When creating the I'm Fine App, the main goal was to create an easy way to let friends and especially parents know how you're doing when something bad happens. For that, it's possible to pre-populate the app with some email addresses that will receive an email with location details about you when something happens. Heezle posts to social networks like Facebook and Twitter, but that wouldn't work for us, since our parents just aren't on Facebook. Are yours? On the other hand, Heezle can post to Twitter, something that the I'm Fine App doesn't do. Conclusion: whichever way you prefer to get in touch with your parents or friends when cell networks aren't available (but wifi is, like it is on many festivals), there's an App for that, be it Heezle or the I'm Fine app.
Oh the lame-ness?
While on vacation, I received several messages and emails from friends and readers saying that the biggest national telecommunications provider here in Belgium had released an app similar to the I'm Fine App and to Heezle. It's called the "I'm OK" app [oh the lame-ness]. What Belgacom possible did was take the idea from small developers (I run GoodBytes on my own and I'm sure the guys who created Heezle aren't a multinational corporation either, which isn't a bad thing at all) and quickly put out their own app, probably just to make the news now that Pukkelpop is about to start and to generate some goodwill and positive media coverage for their brand.
It all smells a bit funky and since many readers of this blog have contacted me about this matter I felt that it would be appropriate to write this post. So, what do you think? Is it ok for Belgacom or other large corporations to "compete" with small software developers like this or is it just me and a handful of other geeks who think this isn't the way to go? Don't forget to spread the word by sharing this post on Facebook, Twitter or even by old school email.
Peace out. Keep coding! Heezle (iOS + Android + Windows Phone) I'm Fine App (iOS only) I'm OK App (Android + iOS)