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RapidSOS raises $21M to continue expanding its data platform for first responders

Ingrid Lunden

The global health pandemic has shed new light on how essential it is to have accurate data about an individual's situation to assess the severity of his or her condition, and for those responding to emergencies to have it as instantly as possible to make the right choices in terms of care. Today, a startup that's built a platform that helps enable that flow of data is announcing a round of funding to expand its business.

RapidSOS, which works with some 4,700 public safety agencies alongside a network of other companies, including wearable tech makers, connected home companies, carriers and others to provide those agencies with instant data about people in critical situations making emergency calls for help -- some 650,000 calls per day in the U.S. alone -- has raised $21 million in funding.

The round is being led by Transformation Capital -- the recently formed digital health-focused VC -- with participation also from C5 Capital, Laerdal Million Lives Fund and existing investors. It brings the total raised by RapidSOS to $107 million: previous investors include Energy Impact Partners (who led a $55 million round just six months ago), as well as Playground Global, Microsoft and many others.

Michael Martin, the co-founder and CEO, said the funding will be in part used to bring on a new data source. Together with American Heart Association, the American Red Cross and Direct Relief, RapidSOS is launching something called the Emergency Health Profile, which will allow people (starting in the U.S.) to opt into sharing more background health information to first responders by creating a profile associated with a person's mobile number.

The idea is that this will complement RapidSOS's existing business model and sources of real-time diagnostic data, providing a more complete picture of a person and his or her problems, something of a Holy Grail in the medical world.

"Many companies have been thinking about this challenge for a long time," Martin said in an interview about the predicament of having lots of data about an individual -- and more by the day, thanks to technology -- but no way of passing it on efficiently. "I think of it as an hourglass: there is already a lot of critical, life-saving data out there, and people to receive it, but between the two is a 1960s analogue copper wire."

RapidSOS, founded in 2013 in New York, is primarily based around what you might describe as a two-sided marketplace formed by the two ends of that hourglass.

One side includes companies like AppleGoogle, Uber, connected car companies and others making connected devices and apps -- today covering some 350 million connected devices and apps in all -- which all integrate RapidSOS’s technology to provide 911 response centers with more data such as a user’s location and diagnostic details that can help determine what kind of response is needed, where to go, and so on.

The other side includes emergency services that use that information to assess situations more quickly and organize assistance. Martin says that RapidSOS's data delivery system can reduce the time of a call on average by one minute, which -- when you consider 650,000 calls per day -- works out to being able to handle an extra 90,000 calls overall.

Expanding the sources of data available to first responders will mean bringing on more hardware and usage cases that enrich the picture of an individual's situation.

On the part of the recipients of that data, Martin notes that while there are still many more emergency response agencies to tackle -- it covers some 90% of the population in the U.S. today, but the world is large -- RapidSOS is also starting to look now at how it might also supply information to other people in the response chain who might also benefit from more immediate and richer information, such as emergency rooms and ICUs. (These newer users, he said, would likely be targeted in partnership with third parties.)

Notably, RapidSOS's business model does not charge emergency services to receive information: instead, it charges the makers of different devices and apps, who all want to improve the effectiveness of their devices, and thus pay RapidSOS to become the efficient and secure channel to make the data that they have more actionable.

(For a recent example of how this works, consider the recent case of a man whose Apple Watch called 911 when a man in Arizona was unresponsive after falling. The watch was "credited" with saving his life. That prompt and call, however, was actually made by RapidSOS, which integrates with the device.)

The crux of the problem that RapidSOS is addressing is that many emergency services are built on legacy technology, some dating from the 1960s, in which the information that response units have to work with is limited to what the person calling in can provide. That remains useful detail but critical minutes of action can be lost in the process of asking questions (or simply being unable to get answers).

While the data that can be gleaned from active devices and apps can be rich with information, it's only as good as what can be assessed in real time, which is why RapidSOS is now moving into ways to provide enhanced background information by way of the new Emergency Health Profile.

“Prior to RapidSOS, most emergency medical treatment had to occur without even knowing the patient’s name, much less any other data about the patient,” said Todd Cozzens, managing partner at Transformation Capital, in a statement. "RapidSOS has transformed the way we respond to emergencies and we are excited to help them extend that reach into healthcare.”