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Safety device in the works

New Delhi, Jan. 22: The Centre is planning to develop an electronic personal safety device that can send distress signals to emergency helpline numbers in case of accidents or assaults even in areas without cellphone network.

The information technology ministry is working on a prototype and is hoping to make the device available in the market by early 2014.

“It is likely to be priced between Rs 1,000 and Rs 2,500. It will have various features, including an alert button, (the facility to make) automatic calls to several pre-defined numbers in emergencies and live GPS tracking,” said Kapil Sibal, IT and telecom minister.

IT ministry officials said if no mobile network is available, a pre-installed software and live GPS can be accessed to send text messages giving the location of the device using satellite signals.

When the device is in an area where mobile towers and networks are available, the location will be transmitted using the mobile signal tracking system and will not require active Internet connectivity.

The officials said that the device can be activated through voice commands like “help” and it will have a camera that can capture and transmit images of the surroundings to emergency-handling centres like hospitals or police stations.

The officials said they were working with IT engineers to figure out how these features can be amalgamated to develop a device which can be easily used during an emergency.

Industry trackers said that various security apps can be downloaded on mobile devices even now but most do not work if Internet connection is not available. Many lack the voice-activation feature, which may be needed in an emergency situation.

“Abroad, such security devices are available at a high cost. We are trying to develop a simple effective solution at a fraction of the cost,” Sibal said, without giving details.

Another much-hyped device associated with the government — the Aakash tablet — has not lived up to expectations.

Airtel recently launched an emergency alert service that works on most basic handsets and does not require Internet access or a subscription balance. The service sends an alert and the subscriber’s nearest location to 10 pre-registered mobile numbers.

However, the person in distress has to make an “emergency” call to 55100 or send a text message stating “HELP” to the same number. The service will then send the alerts to the pre-registered numbers.

Other emergency apps include FightBack, which is available on select Android, BlackBerry and Nokia smartphones; Safe which works on Android and BlackBerry phones; and Life 360 Family Locator which also works on basic phones. Most of them need Internet connectivity.


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