Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

AlertID: Neighborhood Crime Data Services

Posted by Tom Foremski - February 26, 2014

AlertIDCEO 1

AlertID, based in Las Vegas, is expanding its services. It acts as a crime alert service for about 1 million users and covers about 85% of US zip codes. It's also a messaging platform for neighborhood watch groups and local residents.

However, the 3-year old company faces competition from a younger startup Nextdoor, which raised $60m five months ago, from top Silicon Valley VC companies. I recently met with AlertID CEO Ken Wiles (above), here are some notes from our conversation:

 - AlertID claims it is the largest neighborhood crime reporting services in the US. It has information on 85% of US zip codes. It currently covers about 90 million US residents.

- It has about 1 million regular users.

- It's trying to become a communications platform for neighbors to organize as neighborhood watch groups and also communicate with each other. 

- The company has to interface with local city IT systems, which can be difficult and time consuming to set up because of the myriad types of computer systems and databases.

- The US has about 9,000 municipalities and crime reporting systems.

- When people sign up, the system picks a geographic border for each user, which can be ten or more miles in rural areas.

- AlertID wants to improve the quality of life for people by helping to keep them safe, teaching them about safeguards, and acting as a communications channel between neighbors.

- It sends out the notification by email, there is no SMS or plans to offer other messaging channels. 

- It offers a tornado alert feature.

- Local law enforcement are big supporters of AlertID.

- Its revenue model has three legs: web site advertising; licensing enterprise apps to use its data; selling data services. 

Foremski's Take: The name AlertID is confusing, it implies a medical emergency. Using email as the only messaging channel limits the usefulness of the service.

A neighborhood based service needs to offer more than just crime data and a messaging platform between neighbors. It should have other information such as schools, clubs, restaurants, and local news sites. 

The company is unaware of Topix, which is focused on thousands of neighborhoods, offering local news and information, and local forums where neighbors interact. Some of these communities however, are toxic and the gossip can be harsh, forcing people to leave the area in some cases. (New York Tmes: Small-Town Gossip Moves to the Web, Anonymous and Vicious.) AlertID needs to make sure this doesn't happen on its service.

There is also an open source project funded by Knight Ridder Foundation called OpenBlock that automatically collects and publishes neighborhood information. Any site can use this software for free. 

By only offering crime data, there's not many reasons for people to revisit the site. And crime maps are available on other sites too, such as local newspapers, and real estate sites such a Trulia and Zillow.

But a much larger issue for AlertID is Nextdoor, which not only has a substantial amount of expansion capital but its focus is broader than just local crime information.

AlertID's best bet is to become the best source of local crime data and sell that as a real-time service to local newspapers, large real estate sites, and any other buyers.  

Or, change its name to something that doesn't confuse people with medical emergencies; and broaden its services to include local news and classifieds.

 

 

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