Penn competition helps map Philly’s heartbeat

It’s a high-tech scavenger hunt with a heart.

Hoping to save lives and increase the public’s awareness of emergency aid devices that can help anyone in cardiac distress, an interdisciplinary group of Penn researchers from Penn Medicine, the School of Arts and Sciences and Wharton has launched a mobile media competition called the MyHeartMap Challenge. The competition begins this month and registration details can be found at the website.

The contest aims to encourage Philadelphians to locate and register as many automated external defibrillators (AEDs)—machines that deliver an electric shock to the chest—as they can find using their cell phones.

Contestants can also use social media to create a “virtual” team of AED hunters, employing the help of their online friends to find AEDs. The goal is to create a comprehensive online map of the AEDs in Philadelphia that would be accessible through a mobile device application. In an emergency, the app would help direct a person to an AED near them using GPS coordinates.

After registering, individuals (or teams) will be asked to download a free contest app to their smartphones. They will then fan out across the city to locate, photograph and register the AEDs they come across at stores, offices, public buildings and other places people gather.

The person or team who finds the most AEDs during the contest will win $10,000. Participants also have the chance of locating a few “golden ticket” AEDs located around the city and winning $50 for registering each of those devices.

“More and more, scientists are learning that we can benefit from the wisdom of the crowd,” says Raina Merchant, one of the MyHeartMap Challenge leaders and an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine. “Participation from ordinary citizens will allow us to answer questions and make the city safer than our team could ever do on its own.”

The Penn team hopes to eventually expand the contest into a nationwide, crowd-sourced AED registry project that will help put the lifesaving devices in the hands of anyone, anywhere.

My Heart Map