With a 72-hour cease-fire underway, refugees and residents subjected to the tireless conflict between Israel and Hamas can momentarily resume their lives. Conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians have escalated quickly within the past month, and the nations’ leaders are set to meet in Cairo to negotiate a way to end the fighting.
Civilians stuck in the middle of fighting, bombs, and fires are using various technologies to stay informed, spread news, and keep in touch with friends and family, while sirens around the city have provided a more traditional way to alert people of approaching danger.
The sound of warning sirens, however, can sometimes be drowned out. If you’re showering or sleeping you could miss the alert, says Aviv Ben-Yosef, a software developer living in Israel. Once the sirens sound, people have anywhere between 15 to 90 seconds to run for cover. “After almost sleeping through the sirens one time, I decided that enough is enough and went looking for a way to write an app for it,” he explained.
Ben-Yosef and three of his friends created an app in about 20 hours that sends push notifications to users in order to alert them of rocket attacks throughout the region. Over a short amount of time, thousands have downloaded the app, catapulting it to the top of the Israeli app store’s charts.
Along the way, Ben-Yosef observed the successes and foils of his weeks-old project, which he recorded in a blog post titled “Lessons from Building a Rocket Alarm App.”
The information he offers highlights user patterns true for any app at its core. App downloads soar by word of mouth after an attack, especially since many people get crammed into small spaces while trying to stay safe. Naturally, the app comes up. Meanwhile, push notifications, a feature capable of driving users up the wall, actually lies at the heart of Ben-Yosef’s app. With such a small window of time to react, Ben-Yosef explains that it’s not practical to not receive the notifications.
The app has also become a news source for its users. While you can receive notifications of attacks in the area, there’s also a function that allows users to get alerts for every alarm that goes off, which Ben-Yosef writes can add up to over 100 per day. He’s even gotten email requests asking for “less alarming alarms” so people will know when to run for cover or if they can rest easy for the time being.
Other apps have also played a role in serving as notification systems. For instance, Yo, the minimalist app capable of sending only one word that could hold a plethora of underlying meanings, was used in Israel, where it was developed, to warn Israelis of missile attacks. And products similar to Ben-Yosef’s also exist on the market.
While most app developers look for ways to sustain the success of a new app, Ben-Yosef would be happy to see the market potential for his decrease.