Smartphone app that could literally save someone’s life

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Now that most people have smart phones, and we all have a high-resolution camera with us at all times, there are new ways to use them popping up all the time. What we’re talking about today is a great example of that. Who would have thought that your cell phone could actually save someone’s life – but it’s true.



What we’re talking about here is human trafficking. This is something that’s easy to not really think about much because most of us don’t see it happening. But it is definitely happening, and most likely it’s going on right there wherever you live.

Some numbers:

  • Up to 300,000 Americans under 18 are lured into the commercial sex trade every year.
  • Human trafficking is a $32 BILLION-a-year industry. The only bigger industry in the world is drug trafficking.
  • Sex trafficking is in all 50 states.
  • 75% of underage sex trafficking victims said they had been advertised or sold online.
  • The most common venue where traffickers exploit their victims: hotels.

It’s easy for law enforcement to go undercover and find the online and underground forums and websites where these kids are being advertised. They can see pictures of the child. And they can also see the hotel room where the pictures were taken. But that’s not enough – what’s needed is a database of pictures of hotel rooms all around the country (or world).

That’s where you come in. This is a good example of crowdsourcing.

Millions of people are traveling and staying in hotel rooms every day. What if everyone just snapped a few pictures of their hotel room, then uploaded those pictures to a common location? Then, when cops see a child being advertised, they can use their computers to compare that picture with the database of pictures already stored, and possibly find out exactly where that child is.

This is now happening! It’s been made possible through a smartphone app called Traffickcam. The website isĀ but you can get the app directly from the Google Play Store or the Apple Store. It’s free of course.

Once you have the app on your phone, you use it to take a few pictures of your room every time you stay in a hotel. Those pictures are automatically uploaded to the database, so that authorities can use it to find these young people being trafficked.

When I first heard about this, I was questioning in my mind whether it could actually be useful. I mean, my work doesn’t usually require me to do overnight travel so I’m usually in my own bed here in Safety Harbor each night. But I have been in a bunch of hotels, and in my mind the rooms all kind of look the same. You know – you walk in, bathroom is immediately to your right or left, then the closet, then the room with the bed, and the window on the far wall with the AC/heater unit under it. How would you differentiate among tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of rooms?

But they are different. Especially when you take 4 pictures of each room, including different angles of the main room, and the bathroom. There are lots of points of comparison that a computer program can run through very quickly, and hopefully come up with a match that can lead cops to where the trafficking picture was taken.



Currently, the Traffickcam database has 157,616 hotels in its database, and there are over 1.6 million photos. And it’s still relatively new – it was only introduced a year ago. There are about 85,000 iPhone users, and 35,000 Android users. That’s such a small percentage of smartphone users – which means there’s a whole lot more potential for this to be really effective! So get the app on your phone, and then tell your friends and family to use it as well, whenever they travel.

And don’t waste your pictures – if your hotel room pictures include any people, they’ll be rejected for use in the database.


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June 19th, 2017

Done, Scott. Thank you. Wow.