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Montreal, Quebec H2Y 2H1
+514 525 4290

Jean-Pierre Martel

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Samsung Creates Pocket Patrol App for Beach Safety

Leo Burnett Sydney, in partnership with Surf Life Saving Australia, develops augmented reality tool to generate awareness about riptides

In collaboration with Surf Life Saving Australia, Samsung Electronics Australia recently launched and piloted Pocket Patrol, an augmented reality (AR) mobile app developed with Leo Burnett Sydney that uses technology to help raise awareness of the No. 1 hazard on Australian beaches, riptides.

The pilot program for Pocket Patrol took place from October 22 to November 13 at selected beaches on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. The app enables users to visualize identified hazards by using a combination of data uploaded by on-duty lifeguards and surf lifesavers as well as AR, GPS, compass, gyroscope and image recognition.

Pocket Patrol is a Launching People initiative, Samsung’s global brand campaign that started in 2013 to help consumers unleash their potential and create meaningful change through the use of Samsung technology.

We caught up with Brett Turnbull, head of digital at Samsung Australia, as well as Grant McAloon and Vince Lagana, joint executive creative directors at Leo Burnett Sydney, to learn more about the technology.

Why is it important for Samsung to invest in an initiative like Launching People?
BT: Launching People is a platform that is designed to emotionally connect people with what the brand can do. The technology in our products is a huge enabler for people all over the world. Launching People provides a great platform to tell the incredible stories of how Samsung can improve people’s lives and solve real problems. It is an important building block in changing the way we communicate about our products. In fact, it is not our products; it is what people can do with our products that make them so exciting.

What were the objectives for this year’s Launching People initiative?
BT: In Australia the objectives were simple. Find a problem that is important to Australians, that is worth solving (i.e., if solved, it will truly make a difference), and that uses Samsung’s technology to solve it. We came up with a long list of potential problems and shortlisted to a few that we thought met the criteria. The one that drove the most passion was beach safety. After all, what Aussie doesn’t love the beach?

What was the key insight that sparked this idea?
GM & VL: We started our thinking by exploring the insight that the way we teach beach safety to swimmers hasn’t changed in decades. Faced with current rip statistics that showed there are over 22 deaths and 11,000 rescues each year, and with a limited number of patrolled beaches, we saw an opportunity to educate people in a new way, using the very technology that everyone takes with them to the beach: their smartphones.

What obstacles did you need to overcome to produce virtual reality, 360 film and additional video content?
GM & VL: We ran into quite a few obstacles while developing Pocket Patrol, such as the inaccuracy of existing location-based services like maps and compasses. We obviously needed to be very precise about the locations of dangers such as rips, so some of our early thinking needed to be refined to get around these limitations.

But while we couldn’t always predict the specific nature of these obstacles, their presence wasn’t unexpected. We know from experience that setbacks and being forced to rethink are always a part of innovation. Ultimately, we had to push the combination of AR and GPS to its limits.

This, combined with initial research using a basic prototype, served to remind us of a key insight central to all work centered around human behavior: Everything had to be brutally simple to use and easy to understand. So no matter how complex things became for us, they always had to be simple to the end user. AR was the perfect technology to efficiently deliver multiple hazards instantaneously.

Producing the VR 360 film, which we used as part of our rip education and awareness around the launch of the app, raised other, more immediate challenges, because we were throwing a human being into one of the most dangerous rips in Australia, at Tamarama Beach. We needed the ocean to cooperate or we couldn’t have done it on our timeline. The sea couldn’t be completely flat as there would be no rip at all, but it couldn’t be huge or we we’d be putting the talent at serious risk.

And, of course, with VR we couldn’t be anywhere near the camera or we’d end up in the footage. So we had to send our swimmer out into the rip alone and simply hope the poor guy captured the dramatic footage we needed

What have you learned so far after the four-week pilot program?
GM & VL: This project has taught us firsthand just how unaware most people are about rips. To see their reactions when the hidden dangers were revealed really reinforced the need for better beach safety education.

Additionally, many people — especially young men — are reluctant to speak to lifeguards about the dangers. They’d literally rather risk their lives than admit they don’t know something. But, thankfully, we also learned that they feel completely comfortable using their phones to find out about the hazards. It’s part of their lives, so we thought there was a neat symmetry in the phone being able to help save their lives.

What are you most excited about Pocket Patrol?
BT: The potential impact. Australians are well-known to be avid beach goers and keen swimmers. However, as we dug beneath the surface we realized Australians were not well informed about rip currents. Two thirds of Australians could not identify a rip current even though most thought they could. And even more surprising was that very few knew what to do if they were ever caught in one. These insights gave us two very clear problems to solve. One, how to educate Australians to recognize a rip current. This led to the development of Pocket Patrol. Second, if they did get caught in one, how to get out of it. This problem we solved with a “How to get out of a Rip” VR video. Every person that uses our app or sees our VR video will have a greater chance of surviving a rip. Now that’s exciting!