I’m OK

Test version now available! Contact me for details.

“I’m OK” is a project I’ve come up with now I am retired. Lots of people live alone and loneliness has many facets; here I’m trying to deal with just one; the fear of not being found. We no longer have the regular postie, paperboy or milkman to notice that we’ve not been active for a day or two and maybe family and friends aren’t that close by.

I’m ok is an app for your smartphone. Once a day, or whatever period you choose, you press the button on your phone. As long as you press the button, nothing else happens. If you don’t press the button during the given period it will send e-mails to up-to three people you have designated. I might add texts to that, but we’ll see how it goes.

Here are some screens to show the basic features; these are all it really needs:

After some testing on myself I found that remembering to press the button – i.e. launch the app – was a bit of a challenge, especially on a home page crowded with apps. My solution to this was to add a button as a widget that can be as big as you like:

You can add multiple buttons so you can have one on each page if you like. The button changes to amber 12 hours before the time limit and red 6 hours before.

Here are the main points:

  • The user needs a smartphone or tablet. At the moment it has to be Android
  • The smartphone/tablet must have access to the internet, either by wireless connection or using data. The amount of data used is very small, maybe 1MB a year.
  • Users don’t need their own e-mail address; all set-up and admin is on the app.
  • Users need at least one contact who does have an e-mail address
  • Contacts have to agree to be involved; an e-mail is sent to confirm this
  • Contacts can be removed at any time by the user or by themselves; no data is held after removal
  • The e-mails are sent even if the phone is switched off or disconnected from the internet; it fails safe.
  • I’m OK is not a panic button
  • This app is free and currently funded solely by me.

It’s a bit depressing to talk about actual scenarios, but here’s a few examples. An elderly person has a fall at home and is unable to move. They cannot reach the phone and the don’t have a panic button on them. If they have not pressed their I’m OK button for the set period an e-mail will be sent; this might be to a doctor, social services, a friend or family member. While there could be many hours until I’m OK sends the messages depending on the interval set, it will send them. This will happen even if the phone’s battery dies or is switched off because the actual timer is on-line, not on the phone.

Someone suffering from bouts of severe depression might find that they simply cannot raise themselves from the bed for even the most basic self-care for days. Losing all motivation might stop them from seeking help and I’m OK could alert a carer or mental health worker to their inactivity.

After a family argument, a family member leaves home. They don’t want to speak to any member of the family and no one knows where they are. However, they don’t want the family to worry about them so they could use I’m OK to reassure the family that they aren’t in any real trouble.

Right now it’s not entirely clear which groups would benefit from I’m OK but I’m thinking ‘at risk’ and ‘isolated’ will be two terms to explore. Clearly users have to look at their phone once a day or so; if they make no use of their phones at all, I’m OK is likely to send out lots of false alarms. However, it is very simple to use. Once set up, the user has simply to open the app to send the message to I’m OK.

The app is currently under development, but it is functional. It’s working on a free server at the moment which is enough to have about one or two hundred users. When (and if) it seems to be of use to the wider population, I will move it to commercial space which I will fund myself. Should it become so widely used it needs serious server space, I expect to fund it through advertising or donations.

Note that I’m not planning to extend its functionality. There are apps that use movement detection, GPS and so on and they are great if they suit your needs. I’m OK is as simple as it can be and there will be circumstances where that is what’s required.

If you think you are a potential user or you are working with people who might benefit from I’m OK, please get it touch via the form below; I’m keen for it to have some real-world trials .

If you know of an app that already does this job, please let me know. No point in reinventing the wheel 🙂