Detroit’s HAAS Alert Links Motorists to 911 Responders, Smart Cities

HAAS Alert, the Techstars Mobility alum with offices in Detroit and Chicago, is one of three startups spending the first six months of 2017 at the Jaguar Land Rover Tech Incubator in Portland, OR.

HAAS Alert has been working on a mobile platform for connected cars and smart cities that allows first responders and other municipal entities to send notifications to nearby drivers about road conditions and driver-safety issues such as accidents, emergency vehicles in transit, or first responders on the scene. The technology  can alsoreroute traffic accordingly using navigation apps.

“We can alert drivers in vehicles using technology they already have,” explains Cory Hohs, CEO and co-founder of HAAS Alert. The company uses its “safety cloud” to gather data that helps drivers see nearby traffic conditions and gives cities a better understanding of where congestion is building up.

Hohs says there are multiple ways the company’s software can be deployed. HAAS Alert pulls in first responder location data from the cities or fleets it works with via private API. Users  can alsodownload the company’s app and, while it runs in the background, use their smartphone as a telematics device that detects emergency sirens and alerts the driver once they’ve been flipped on. A separate “Internet of Things device” also can be attached to a utility truck’s light bar, and once those lights are turned on, the truck’s location data is sent to the cloud.

Hohs says because HAAS Alert is currently using existing mobile networks, it can transmit alerts to drivers from greater distances than short-range vehicle sensors. The company currently has pilots running in more than 10 cities, including Detroit, Chicago, and Palo Alto, CA.

In a press release, Jaguar said that increasing safety and lowering emissions are two of its biggest priorities, and that’s why HAAS Alert was an appealing addition to the incubator. Hohs says the company plans to use its time there to explore new ways of keeping drivers informed while they’re out on the road.

In 2017, Hohs says the company will focus on expanding its smart city footprint and adding more first responders and utility companies to its cloud. (The IoT device HAAS Alert has under development is the result of a request from a utility company whose trucks don’t have sirens.) The company’s long-term goal is to sell data as a service, but its technology is already available as a $10-per-vehicle monthly subscription, with discounts for municipal fleets.

Hohs sees smart cities as HAAS Alert’s main pathway to profitability. The company is participating in smart city initiatives run by the departments of Homeland Security and Transportation at both the state and federal level, he says, and is also sharing data with the Obama administration’s Smart Cities Initiative. Although it’s unclear how President Trump feels about smart city technology and whether he’ll continue the initiative, Hohs is encouraged by his campaign promises to invest in the country’s infrastructure.

“If infrastructure spending holds true to what’s been discussed, that could be a huge leg up,” Hohs adds. “Cities are looking for more than just smart parking, but few cities have connected first responders. We can deploy our solution using the current infrastructure for some things, and I think we’re attractive because we can do that without a massive municipal connectivity overhaul.”

In his view, cities don’t have a technology problem so much as a data problem. A city and its first responders have data, Hohs says; what they need is a bridge connecting that data to navigational apps and drivers.

“Sometimes, it’s all about how to get data from point A to point B, and that’s the core of what we do,” Hohs says.

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