International SOS and iJet International upgraded their mobile apps this year while a new Healix app features distress signals with photos and audio. A “panic button” may not beat a phone call in an emergency, but apps can offer translation, destination training and document storage. Providers now also are exploring client customization and third-party integration.
Customizing an app can be a big project. “Mass app customization at the scale of our client base is incredibly complicated,” said International SOS chief digital officer Rich Gallagher. “But we’re now working with our leading clients who are guiding us.” Clients may be empowered to add branding, manage content and designate crisis calling and language preferences.
The International SOS Assistance App has “hundreds of thousands” of activated users, Gallagher said. It’s available on the Android, iOS, BlackBerry OS and Windows Phone platforms. Development work via the Android Runtime environment will enable BlackBerry 10 support by year-end. Next up in the standard feature set is itinerary integration, more languages and localization.
Version 2.0 of iJet International’s WorldCue Mobile debuted this spring on Android, iOS and BlackBerry OS. BlackBerry 10 is under consideration. The app is free to users of iJet’s WorldCue Traveler service. Mobile product manager Caitlin McVeigh said one distinguishing feature enables clients to “view the individual’s itinerary information and relate that to alerts.”
She added that iJet now is exploring how to customize the app with client-approved vendors, office locations and travel and security policies. Integrating risk management services and intelligence into clients’ homegrown apps also is on the roadmap.
Third-party integration is a big part of the next phase of development.
International SOS, for example, is looking into whether it can connect users to their personal doctors. “Others have tried to create a ‘Swiss army knife’ app with weather, currency and translation,” said Gallagher. “We’ve focused on how best to connect our app users with our core medical and security assistance services.”
Some corporations seek sophisticated GPS tracking and satellite phones for top execs or extra risky trips. International SOS has partnered with Vismo for its GPS tracking application.
Officials at iJet also are arranging partnerships for GPS tracking and satellite phones. But the company’s first third-party app integration is a partnership with TripLingo on a separate language translation app, called Worldcue Translator. It’s “deep linked” into the Mobile Traveler app so users don’t have to log in more than once. McVeigh said partnering on a separate app enabled iJet to get the product into customer hands more quickly. Travel management companies including Travel And Transport and Travizon also recently added TripLingo to their portfolios.
Built by Maxwell Lucas for Healix International and its U.S. unit HX Global, the Travel Oracle app debuted this year. Its panic button triggers “situational photographs” and an audio recording, and sends them with location information to a crisis center. It can also store medical profile info and copies of passports. Travel Oracle now has 25 corporate customers and approximately 25,000 users, according to HX Global. Clients pay in tiers based on the number of users.
Not A Replacement For Service
Much as some app users might like to avoid talking to a human, it’s not a best practice in a crisis.
“Solutions providers are pouring a lot of money into app development,” said FCm Travel Solutions senior director for global risk management Charles Brossman. “Some are interesting, but they must not overlook the fundamentals of travel risk management. If I’m in trouble, I don’t want to type on an app. I want a number or a panic button that puts me through to crisis response support via phone if possible. Every company should have a crisis hotline, and not all of them do.”
“Duty of care has a natural place in the mobile phone market, but it’s also about the service that supports it,” said Travel Leaders Corporate president David Holyoke. “If it’s just ‘click to call,’ are you then in a hold queue? If it’s tied to geolocation, provides instant communications with a risk management professional and offers reporting in seconds to the corporation, that’s pretty powerful.”
Developers acknowledge the limitations. The iJet International app displays the crisis phone number on the panic button itself so users can try a different phone if their cell signal is down. International SOS officials assert that theirs is the only “truly global, integrated call center because, yes, it’s what happens after the call that matters,” said Gallagher.
Here’s a look at some of the more comprehensive apps.
Risk Management Apps
|WorldAware||Travel Oracle||Worldcue Mobile Traveler 2.0||International SOS Assistance App||SmartTraveler
|Provider||Aon||HX Global||iJet International||International SOS||U.S. State Dept.|
|Compatibility||iOS 4.3 or later, Android 1.6 or later||iOS 4.3 or later, Android 4.0 or later||iOS 5.0 or later, Android 2.3.3 or later, BlackBerry OS||iOS 5.0 or later, Android 2.2 or later, BlackBerry OS, Windows Phone||iOS 5.0 or later, Android 2.3 or later|