Competitors build life-saving apps for disasters and emergencies in global weekend challenge

Winning team at Random Hacks of Kindness create an innovative tool to alert family in a disaster

WHAT: Hackathon to solve humanitarian problems & pitch competition

WHEN: Hackathon: Ended Sun., June 5 at 5 p.m.

WHERE: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), 5th floor, 252 Bloor St. W., Toronto

WHO: Experts in climate, disaster, crisis; software, design, Internet, media, more (see below).

TORONTO, June 6, 2011 /CNW/ - Disaster professionals working with volunteer software makers in Toronto on Saturday and Sunday came together to build a set of mobile and online emergency aid tools whose prototypes they  completed on Sunday, some teams coding right up until the pitch competition yesterday evening.

Teams pitched their projects to a panel of guest judges which included Paul Osman, Julia Stowell, Karen Snider and Jesse Brown. See below for judges bios.

Global collaboration was the theme of the weekend, the winning team, collaborated with RHoK Atlanta and utilized the skills found there to put together a complete and innovative mobile application. The teams at Random Hacks of Kindness Toronto (RHoK Toronto) are among some 1,000 people in 18 cities across 6 continents participating in a global weekend-long hacking marathon, or "hackathon," that unites technologists and humanitarian experts in an effort to solve pressing problems.

"It's amazing to see the collaboration between cities," said Heather Leson, lead organizer of RHoK Toronto. "If a team in Toronto didn't have the skills they needed, our team found people in other cities with those skills and they connected via Skype to share expertise"

Winning Projects

The Judges had a hard time deciding on the top three prizes at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education in downtown Toronto. Projects were assessed Creativity of the Solution, Applicability, Utility, Progress and Impact.

1st Prize: Messages without Connectivity- A mobile app that can use Twitter, Facebook, e-mail and other notification services to deliver emergency messages even when cellular phone networks have stopped working, and can alert rescue workers when someone is alive under a collapsed building.

2nd Prize: Bacon- An alerts tool that uses a mobile phone's bluetooth, wifi or cellphone capabilities to send an audible and digital alert once activated to signal a person's whereabouts in the event of an emergency.

3rd Prize: Wound Classification Application: A telemedicine tool that would help people in remote or disaster-stricken areas to visually diagnose life-threatening wounds and help them seek treatment

"The winning Hackers took home first prize because they pitched a fully built mobile application that can be used to alert emergency responders, nearby volunteers and family during a disaster situation." Said Melanie Gorka, Toronto Manager. "They fulfilled all of the judging criteria and had that extra 'wow' factor". The team took home Linksys routers by Cisco, a private lunch with leaders at Mozilla Foundation, which makes the Firefox Web browser and the chance to showcase their application at an unconference as part of Net Change Week in Toronto.

The Random Hacks of Kindness volunteer community -- founded in 2009 by Google, Microsoft,  NASA, Yahoo and the World Bank -- has produced mobile and online software tools that were deployed after disasters in Chile, Haiti and Japan.

The Toronto teams will also received coaching to develop and enhance their pitch and presentation skills, and consult with special guests who are experts in crisis and emergency aid, before they showcased their projects in front of the pitch competition judges:

  • Jesse Brown, host of Search Engine podcast; writer for, Toronto Life.
  • Paul Osman, Mozilla Foundation. Open Web team manager.
  • Karen Snider, Canadian Red Cross national media manager and social media strategist.
  • Julia Stowell, Microsoft Canada open source community and marketing manager.

Special guests:

  • Sara Farmer, United Nations Global Pulse chief platform architect.
  • Kate Chapman, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team. Open global map for aid efforts.
  • Aaron Huslage, SafeCast. Crowdsourced open tracking of reactor-leak radiation in Japan.

"The best part of Random Hacks of Kindness is that no matter which teams win Toronto's pitch competition, all the participants learn, mentor and share in their world. Plus, some projects will continue and maybe become fully built," Heather Leson said.


RHoK Toronto is an ad hoc committee of civic-minded citizens with professional expertise across a broad range of industry sectors. The first Random Hacks of Kindness hackathon in Toronto was held in December 2010.

Community partners new and old have donated space, food, funds, prizes, services and tools to help make the event a success. Donations may be made through the Toronto site or by contacting the organizers. Current sponsors include: Camaraderie, Canadian News Wire (CNW), Centre for Social Innovation, CIRA, Cisco,,  Jonah Group, Lady Atelier, Marketcrashers, MaRS Discovery District and Net Change Week, Aaron McGowan, Microsoft Canada,, Nitido Inc., Rightsleeve, Symantec, Syncapse, Tropo, University of Toronto and Yahoo Canada.

RHoK Toronto is online at:

RHoK Toronto on Twitter:

RHoK Toronto hashtag: #RHoKTO


Random Hacks of Kindness was founded in 2009 by Google, Microsoft,  NASA, Yahoo and the World Bank. The worldwide innovation community has seen thousands of volunteers  work on 120 open source software projects, including tools used in the Haiti and Chile earthquakes in 2010, the recent Japan quake and tsunami, and landslide-prone parts of the Caribbean. "Open source" means the computer code is available for anyone to use and build upon.

Global Random Hacks of Kindness community:

On Twitter:

Twitter hashtag: #RHoK

SOURCE Random Hacks of Kindness Toronto

For further information:


Melanie Gorka        or    Heather Leson
416-556-8071       416-859-6178
Twitter: @melgorka      Twitter: @heatherleson


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