John South is a product of Washington’s defense and intelligence complex. His résumé touts operational and executive experience at several government contractors that support U.S. military and diplomatic missions, primarily in the Middle East.
Today, however, South is an entrepreneur. He has created a Reston-based company called Patrocinium Systems and has built a smartphone app called ArcAngel that provides its users with public safety information and services.
South’s professional transition serves as an example of the potential that many entrepreneurship enthusiasts see in the Federal City: A highly educated, technically skilled workforce that can use its government expertise to start private-sector companies.
South was inspired to make the move after feeling that the government and its contractors are slow to adopt the latest technology, and often move at a glacial pace when it comes to innovation.
“There can be a conduit of a commercial organization using very advanced technology to give back to the community,” South said.
ArcAngel is available in basic and premium versions. The former costs $4.99 per month and pushes alerts to users who may be in danger because of extreme weather, a shooting, an explosion or other public safety incident.
The premium option runs $19.99 per month and includes the ability to call on the company’s staff, many of whom have military or other tactical experience, if a user finds themselves in need of help. The app is not an alternative to 9-1-1 or local law enforcement, South insists, but can be used in less dire situations.
South offers two possible examples: Say you’re a traveler overseas and need to contact an embassy or consulate; ArcAngel can connect you by phone and provide directions there. Or perhaps you’re an intoxicated college student and too embarrassed to call for help; ArcAngel can assist you in getting to safety, South said.
“It’s an insurance policy,” he said.
In a dangerous situation, ArcAngel can also tap into a phone’s geosensors to find a user’s location. The app will then ask users if they are safe. If not, ArcAngel could provide instructions to get to safety or notify law enforcement officers of the user’s location.
ArcAngel is entering a crowded market of free and paid public safety applications. But South said his app provides unmatched speed and location accuracy to get the most up-to-date information into users’ hands as quickly as possible.
South also said the company will market ArcAngel to individuals — it’s available for iPhone, Android and Microsoft devices — as well as companies and universities.
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