The year 2017 will begin with a panic button in all mobile phones in India. Concerned with the safety of women, the Department of Telecommunications has made it mandatory; explaining that activating the panic button will invoke an emergency call for users in emergency situations. The calls will be routed automatically to some law enforcement agency, so that the users in distress could seek immediate help. In addition to panic buttons, the introduction of inbuilt GPS (global positioning system) in all mobile phones has also been made mandatory from January 2018, to detect the location of handset users. Apart from improving women security, the move is also expected to enhance the accountability of security forces. Although mobile apps development has aimed at women safety with a number of feature rich apps, not all work efficiently on all handsets. Introducing technology that could connect every woman in distress with emergency services, beyond the barriers of device compatibility, is indeed the need of the hour.
Handsets to be upgraded with Panic Button
For feature phones which do not run on full-fledged operating systems like Windows or Android, numeric keys, 5 or 9, will serve as panic button invoking emergency calls. In case of smart phones, either long pressing a special panic button or pressing the existing power button thrice in rapid succession should serve the purpose.
Hurdles that could make implementation tricky
Although the introduction of panic button in all mobile phones seems somewhat attainable, the rule of mandatory inbuilt GPS is a little tricky to implement. For feature phone users, upgrading to newer devices may not be affordable. As many feature phones currently in market lack inbuilt GPS, the new rule would mean that several feature phones will be considered as illegal from January 1, 2018. Besides that a number of smartphones also do not come with inbuilt GPS. Government has ordered that smartphones must have either a dedicated panic button or the power button should have an add-on feature through which emergency calls can be made. However, it seems unlikely that the smartphone manufacturers will add a panic button only for one country. And, to enable dialing of emergency number through power button some incorporation will be required in the software. There again remains a doubt that how many manufacturers would be willing to add an extra function to the power button, just for India.
A crucial move towards Digital India
Currently India has a separate number for different services like 100 for police and 101 for fire department. But the nation is soon planning to introduce a single number, 112, for all emergency calls. Ensuring the safety of women has become a priority as the instances of rape are increasing day by day. In fact the number of real incidences is far greater than what the statistics suggest. Mandatory panic buttons and GPS in all mobile phones, if implemented successfully, would be a great move to check devastating crimes by ensuring immediate help.