An Inside Look at the Life-Saving PulsePoint Mobile App

Walter Huber, a medical technician trainee in Sunnyvale, Calif., was sitting down to dinner on March 25, 2015, when he received an alert through his PulsePoint mobile application. At a school across the street from his home, someone was suffering a cardiac arrest.

Huber rushed over and started CPR on a 62-year-old man lying on a soccer field. He kept the man stable until a police officer arrived and administered a life-saving shock with a defibrillator. Without the alert and Huber’s quick response, the man may have been one of 1,000 people who die every day in the U.S. from sudden cardiac arrest.

This is the power of PulsePoint, a location-aware iOS and Android app that alerts people trained in CPR when someone within walking distance is having a cardiac arrest. A 9-1-1 dispatch triggers the alert, and a participant’s phone displays the location of the emergency on a map and the nearest automatic external defibrillator (AED). The goal is to get someone certified in CPR to the victim as soon as possible and help prevent a loss of life even before emergency medical services arrive, since every second counts in the event of a sudden cardiac arrest.

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The application was developed by Workday volunteers for the non-profit PulsePoint Foundation. Since it became available less than four years ago, it has been adopted by more than 1,100 communities in the U.S. and Canada, according to PulsePoint.org.

PulsePoint, and Huber’s story, were featured on “ABC World News Tonight” last month. There are other stories, too, including a mechanic in Spokane, Wash., who sprinted two blocks after getting the alert on his phone to save a one-month-old baby who had stopped breathing in a retail shop, as featured on “Good Morning America.”

Richard Price, a retired fire chief for the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District in California, got the idea for such an application in 2009 after an unsettling incident: while he was having lunch in a deli, someone’s heart had stopped beating in the shop next door. He’d heard the sirens coming like everyone else, but that’s all he knew.

“When that incident occurred near me, it was a light-bulb moment,” Price said. “We’d been training people how to perform CPR, how to be prepared—but something happened really close and we weren’t being made aware of it.”

He wondered, “What if software, GPS, and cell phones could converge in such a way as to turn everyday people into potential rescuers?” Through a partnership the fire protection district struck with Northern Kentucky University that same year, a team of students developed a prototype for the app that the district later piloted.

“Coding and software development skills are not generally associated with saving lives and giving back, but our Workday team has done just that with PulsePoint.”

The non-profit PulsePoint Foundation was formed to lead future direction of the product, with Price serving as president. Two Workday executives—Co-Founder and Chairman Dave Duffield and Executive Vice President of Development Petros Dermetzis— joined the foundation’s board, and Workday became a sponsor of the foundation.

Workday Volunteers Take On PulsePoint Project

In 2011, a volunteer group of Workday developers took on the project to convert the early prototype into a production-ready, scalable platform that could serve to help saves lives throughout the world. The team designed and developed multi-jurisdictional iOS and Android apps, as well as the PulsePoint AED app, which helps crowdsource the location of life saving defibrillators across the globe.

“Coding and software development skills are not generally associated with saving lives and giving back, but our Workday team has done just that with PulsePoint,” says Joe Korngiebel, senior vice president of user experience at Workday.

Today, about 15 Workday developers volunteer part of their work day to continue improving the app and its underlying technology. Community fire and emergency medical service organizations license the system from PulsePoint Foundation, and citizens who are trained in CPR can download the app from Google Play or iTunes. “There’s been tremendous adoption and demand, and so much of that obviously has to do with Workday,” Price says.

“Workday volunteers are pivotal in the success of PulsePoint,” says Raul da Silva, product manager at Workday. “The foundation benefits from the top-tier talent Workday brings to the project, and our volunteers get a great sense of civic pride in helping communities.”

Price meets regularly with the Workday volunteers to discuss future innovations for the app. “These are very inspirational and creative meetings,” Price said.  “They’re changing lives, and that connection is immediate and direct.”