Little Brother’s team has been full at work for a week in Edinburgh in the UK’s largest start-up incubator CodeBase.

The spring time has been full of testing and discussing with people, and debating and developing ideas. In this post we focus on our competitors. Benchmarking has helped us position, what are we doing and what Little Brother’s mission is.

In the first pitch we said that Little Brother makes civil activists and journalists work safer by downloading sensitive materials off the phone. Basic functionality is still included in the application, but with a more refined message. Little Brothers mission is best stated the following way:

Little Brother stands for transparency and your right to capture the world around you. It uploads the recorded material and removes it from your phone.

Our clearest competitors are doing somewhat similar things, but from an American point of view and focusing on one thing. Stop and Frisk, HandsUp the App and the ACLU’s Police Tape app focus on police brutality in the United States. Common to all these applications is that they seek to identify where the photo or video was taken and to tell the users what their rights are. They’re ment to be used in crisis situations. For example, HandsUp the App sends a text message to a predefined number, when things get ugly.

The open source Android project Informacam, on the other hand, is more of a platform than an application. It allows anyone to build an application that can be used to monitor dangerous or threatening situations and then to store the material away from the phone.

CNN’s iReport in turn has a taken a different approach. It allows anyone to send news photos and videos to CNN’s news service for publication. The implementation is very similar to Little Brother, but the application’s primary task is to crowdsource news production.

However, the most interesting benchmark is perhaps a new application called Alibi. It continuously records video and audio, and the user can choose to store the last hour of recordings. This is great, because the user doesn’t have to actively use the application since it’s always on. It gives an advantage, when situations arise unexpectedly. On the other hand the application can also be abused for secretly wiretapping, which is something some users report.

Little Brother isn’t solely against police violence, since we’ve found there exists many uses for the service. A journalist might want to make sure that at least some photographs make it across a country border where all camera memory cards are checked. Graffiti art lover may in turn require a service, which allows you to safely take pictures of graffiti decorated trains. And demonstrations will definitely become more transparent, when we can ensure that a greater part of the shot during the demonstration can survive to tell the story.

This finally brings us to our main competitor: the phones own camera application. A third-party camera app has a hard time in providing a user experience that’s better than the original camera app. But the need to transfer the data off the phone clearly exists. This we can tell from the emergence of our competitors during this spring. And the fact that people are clearly interested in them. Our asset in the competition is our apps versatility, reliability and ease of use.

From now on, we will continue discussions with potential test users, and fine-tune the app itself.

For now, we want to thank all of you, who have helped us to move forward with the project by commenting on the application, following us on Facebook and Twitter or by joining our mailing list.

Please join them, by following our progress on our blog and, above all, if you are a person or know that person, who could help us by sharing their experiences in documenting risky situations, please contact us in of the above channels. You can start with this short query and get a chance to win a iTunes voucher.

Take care, be safe!

Little Brothers: James, Timo, Matti and Jukka

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