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Finding food (and gas and heat) in an emergency: Currant is making an app for that


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CurrantNOW would enable users to share hyperlocal information in the aftermath of disaster.
CurrantNOW would enable users to share hyperlocal information in the aftermath of disaster. - (Kickstarter / Currant)

Denise Spell was among the fortunate few New Jersey residents whose power was unscathed by Hurricane Sandy. But her Ridgewood home quickly became a resource for less fortunate friends and family searching for warmth, electricity and Internet access.

That experience inspired Spell to found Currant Inc., a Newark-based startup developing software products to help people manage disaster-related chaos.

Currant is conducting a crowdfunding campaign through Kickstarter to pay for its lead product, an app called CurrantNOW that would enable users to share hyperlocal information in the aftermath of disaster. (It is approaching its goal of raising $15,000 by Christmas)

The app would list where to obtain medical attention and shelter, where to purchase gas, recharge devices, and which supermarkets are selling fresh food. CurrantNow would also enable sharing of photos, such as down power lines and trees, to assist utility companies and municipalities.

"This is really where the power of the crowd can be harnessed," said Spell, who operates the company with help of volunteers at the Enterprise Development Center at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. "I really believe people want to help each other."

Spell, who left a sales engineering job at another technology startup to found Currant in August, is optimistic the capital campaign will reach its goal. She said Tuesday the business since Nov. 25 has raised more than $11,300, or three quarters of its target.

The money would pay to complete development of CurrantNow and arrange for hosting services. Spell said how soon the free app will launch depends on how much money is raised but is targeting 2014, first through Android and later the Apple system.

The product is now undergoing software testing to fix bugs and ensure workability. Spell said the app will use algorithmic formulas to verify the accuracy of user-submitted data plus GPS systems will help ensure a person reporting information from a site is actually there.

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