SU student develops app to warn about incoming rockets

Aug 8, 2014

The war between Israel and Gaza has changed the way of life of some Israeli civilians who now live in constant fear of incoming rockets. But for residents caught in the crossfire, when it comes to being warned about incoming rockets, now, thanks to a Syracuse University senior, there's an app for that.

”It’s non-stop, basically, in the middle of the night, during the day, all the time.”

Shani is an 18-year-old Israeli citizen, and she says her entire life has been typical and carefree. But when rocket attacks from Hamas started falling near her family’s home in central Israel three weeks ago, it all changed.

”I know my Mom won’t let my brother go out to his friends’, he’s 10 years old, because she doesn’t know whether his friend has, like, a bomb shelter in his house. And if he doesn’t, he’s not leaving the house. People are stressed all the time,” said Shani.

Shani is nervous about the military and political situation in Israel, so she asked that her last name not be used. But she is feeling a little bit safer now – because of her smartphone. She’s just started using a new app that warns her about any nearby rocket attacks.  And if the attack is close enough, the app tells her to take cover.

It’s a sound she’s heard more times in the past few days than she cares to remember.

“Wow. Countless, countless of times. I had to silence my phone because it just goes off,” said Shani.

Up until now, Ben Honig’s been studying at Syracuse University and designing games. But within five days he and his friend had built the iRon Dome App and made it available for free for iPhones. By pulling live data from the Israeli Defense Force, the app sends alerts and maps out where sirens are going off. It’s so effective, even they didn’t believe it at first.

iRon Dome app developer and Syracuse University senior Ben Honig
iRon Dome app developer and Syracuse University senior Ben Honig
Credit courtesy Ben Honig

”I can’t tell you how many times we went back and forth with each other and we’re like, ‘Do we have a bug right now? Like, this is going off way more than an app should,’” said Honig. “And then we were like checking our data source, and in fact, it was pulling exactly the way it was supposed to be, and really happening in real-time, that’s when we both got the realization that, ‘Wow. Imagine if we were living here and had to live our everyday lives knowing these rockets were going off at all times.’”

Shani is one of those people who believes she has been saved by the app.

“One time I was outside waiting for my bus, and I just had an alarm there and it also sent me a question of “take cover” you know, like it knew where I was, like it’s taking care of you,” said Shani.

While the iRon Dome App is both comforting and alarming, Shani and app developer Ben Honig share the same hope for its future.

“I hope that one day not far away it will be gone. So, I mean, we won’t have to download it to just feel safer,” said Shani.

But with the war between Israel and Gaza intensifying recently, it looks like there will be a need for the app for quite a while.

iRon Dome app developer Arik Sosman
iRon Dome app developer Arik Sosman
Credit courtesy Ben Honig