PulsePoint app exposes NKU students to real life-and-death outcomes

PulsePoint, the CPR app developed by Northern Kentucky University students, has been credited with saving another life.
When Sunnyvale, Calif. resident Farid Rashti experienced sudden cardiac arrest in March while playing soccer in a public park, his teammates called 911. Their call triggered a PulsePoint alert that notified CPR-trained Walter Huber, who lives near the park, of the need for life saving intervention. Huber performed CPR until an officer arrived with an Automated External Defibrillator (AED), reviving Rashti.
The PulsePoint app was created as part of a unique partnership between the San Ramon (Calif.) Valley Fire Protection District and NKU’s Center for Applied Informatics.
In 2009, the fire district had an idea for software that would connect CPR-trained individuals with people experiencing sudden cardiac arrest.
“They contacted several organizations with no luck in the Bay Area,” says Tim Ferguson, Executive Director for the Center for Applied Informatics. “They then approached Apple, and an Apple executive referred them to the College of Informatics. Apple has continually referred organizations wanting innovative and high tech solutions to us.”
Improvements in technology hardware and software led to an updated version of PulsePoint in 2011, which provided geographically targeted notifications through the app. San Ramon officials and NKU understood the potential for a wider application for the software.
“As our partnership grew, all of us realized that there was a greater need/mission that could be met with our work,” Ferguson says.
The PulsePoint Foundation was created in order to make the software more widely accessible.
In addition to connecting CPR-trained citizens with cardiac arrest victims, PulsePoint also tracks publicly accessible AED devices through a crowd-sourced registry. The registry is accessible through the app as well as by 911 call centers in order to direct callers on the scene of a cardiac emergency to the location of the nearest device.
In the past four years, cities subscribing to PulsePoint have grown from 600 to over 1,100 municipalities in 16 states, including three in the Cincinnati region in Crescent Springs, Erlanger and Elsmere, Ky.
NKU’s involvement with PulsePoint has generated new opportunities and visibility for the Center for Applied Informatics.
“The innovation of PulsePoint at NKU allowed us to work on projects relating to emergency services in Switzerland, which has been great exposure for our students,” Ferguson says. “In addition, we were invited to speak at a mobile conference in England where we presented PulsePoint. As a result of that presentation, we have been speaking to key government leaders in England about innovation there.”
Bruce Alan Pfaff, director of communications for NKU’s College of Informatics, added that former NKU students continue to be involved with the app’s development through the PulsePoint Foundation and Workday.
This year, the PulsePoint app was nominated by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences for Webby awards in the categories of “Best Use of GPS or Location Technology” and “Social: Health & Fitness.” Although PulsePoint didn’t go home with a prize, every successful cardiac intervention is a win for the app’s makers and users.
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Julie Carpenter has a background in cultural heritage tourism, museums, and nonprofit organizations. She's the Executive Director of AIA Cincinnati.