The automated external defibrillator (AED) is a relatively simple device that anyone can use. It has voice commands that generally eliminate user error and detects abnormal heart rhythms in the victim, administering a shock only if necessary. AEDs are crucial to many people's survival, as the longer a person in cardiac arrest waits for care, the lower their chances of survival are. But what if there isn’t one available? Fortunately, there’s a new app that can tell where the closest one is.

Cardiac arrest occurs when an electrical malfunction in the heart causes it to stop beating. Waiting for emergency medical personnel to arrive reduces a person’s chances of surviving to 7 percent, making finding an AED highly important. An app called AED-SOS, however, might help. Developed by Japanese researchers at Kyoto University, it signals potential rescuers when a sudden, out-of-hospital cardiac arrest hits a community that doesn’t have an AED on hand. These rescuers then bring an AED to the scene and administer aid.

To test whether the app could actually get AEDs to the scene of a cardiac arrest in a shorter amount of time, researchers split 52 participants into two groups: one that used the AED-SOS app and one the relied on 911 and emergency personnel. The two groups then participated in simulations of out-of-the hospital cardiac arrests.

The researchers found the group with the AED-SOS app recognized a cardiac arrest and found an AED faster than the group without the app. With the app, participants were able to find and administer an AED in an average of two minutes. Meanwhile, those who didn’t have the app took about 3.5 minutes to administer the AED.

For every minute that a cardiac arrest victim goes without treatment, their chance of survival falls by about 10 percent, according to the American Red Cross. This means the AED-SOS app could potentially save the lives of those who experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital. The app would be especially useful in places where hospitals are scarce, like rural America. Research has shown that 60 percent of primary health care professional shortages occurred in non-metropolitan areas. People who live in these areas have to travel long distances to access these vital services, which is both time consuming and costly. Because they’re so far and between, more people are dying; a 2013 study found that while mortality rates in non-isolated hospitals were dropping, those in rural hospitals were rising.

This isn’t the first time that smartphone apps and cardiac arrest treatments have come together. Earlier this year, researchers in Sweden developed an app that provides text message alerts to CPR-trained volunteers when a reported cardiac arrest occurred in their vicinity.