This week had more newspaper reports that gangs of fundamentalist men are attacking women in Bangalore for wearing jeans. The DeccanHerald and Express buzz also carried the news and local groups in Bangalore sprang forward to support women but this brouhaha subsides after a few days. Frankly I dont expect passers by to do anything, much less help a stranger and I say this with prior experience in multiple situations in the past.

Well, as a mark of protest against the jean-hating facists, I am contemplating wearing jeans to the next hindu wedding I attend. So there!  But before that I thought of blogging the whole specification that I had discussed with Ashwin Mahesh (of Mapunity). At the last barcamp (BCB7) I heard that they have implemented my idea so I'm blogging about it publicly, partly in the hope that cellular service providers encourage more such applications.

Ideally facilities like these should be available akin to the '911' service that North America has, but well, we live in a country where life and safety has lost meaning so I hope someone can take the idea and convert it into a social instrument of change and safety for Indian women, instead of the greedy entities that one gets to see always -- There is only so much value to caller tunes and ringtones and its my assumption that women (and children too) would be willing to pay for a safety service app. Millions of people dont use smartphones/GPS enabled devices in India and I wanted them to be able to utilize this tool and get help in an emergency too. Here is the spec :

APPLICATION #1

Pressing a combination of One or two buttons to initiate and send a distress/alert message to more than one person together with information like 'his/her location' and 'how to reach that location'.

PROPOSAL-1

Present day phone sets offer only single button (speed dial) feature to initiate a call to one single receiver/destination. In a situation where the person finds herself in danger/helpless, it may not be possible to use the instrument for dialing  or typing out an SMS. Hence the need for an emergency button feature. Besides, the emergency button when pressed can dial single numbers only which can be introduced by the handset provider. It is therefore necessary to introduce another emergency "2 button press" feature to initiate sending an SMS text message containing one or more telephone numbers to the Mobile service provider software running at the base station.

[ The SMS text along with the list of Cell# (max10) will be provided and stored during normal times. ]

Delivery mechanism to be built in base station software.

The software at the base station should be able to recognise this 'distress SMS', scan the message and read, select and dial mobile numbers, get the dialers location, decide destination from/to route , pass the parameters to 'XYZ software, get the route details for person in distress  and send the SMS/call to all the listed receipients in the users data file.


PROPOSAL-2

Current feature set in the mobile instrument hardware allows a single key to be associated with one single number store in the phone-book.

Change needed in software :-- Instead a new feature of storing and attatching a list of member (say max 10 numbers) is made and on pressing the 'hotkey' like # or * along with the 'call' key, the mobile can dial and send SMS (as explained in the XYZ paragraph above) one-by-one automatically till all the numbers stored in the list are exhausted.

Features : 

- ease of navigation
- does not need gps phone
- user creates the config say, "*key + 99"

USECASES:

The new feature can alert upto 10 people, including maybe the police, and help can be provided in emergency cases. The feature is extremely useful in unexpected situations like accidents, hijacking or kidnapping, rioting, dacoity, rape/assault cases, etc...

APPLICATION #2

[A] MOBILE user (requester) seeking route information to reach a destination

1] Mobile user to send SMS to '999' typing the text message containing parameters like :

+ names of destination,
+ landmark,
+ street name, etc...

Mobile service provider software with 'XYZ feature' to :
                  
- Analysis of the senders GPS location (starting point)
- analyse the destination parameter (by searching the database)
- decide their geo-spatial location on the city map,
- identifies the road name, junction name, etc... along with the route from starting point to destination.
- links traffic congestion details generated by 'transport information API' to select alternate route.
- and finally list out road names, junction names to be passed through to reach the destination.
- generate a 'reply SMS' containing the above details and transmits to requester.

SMS charge can be recovered from user and shared between Service provider and others.

USECASES:

0] local hospitals/shops/companies can advertise if the person passes through a locality.
1] The 'XYZ feature' can in normal situation be availed to obtain route details to reach a new destination or call/invite/give directions to a new place.
 

PRIVACY:

Privacy is a huge factor in both the Applications mentioned above, but since these are opt-in models, i.e. the user will have to subscribe or activate the features as they are not default services provided with a cell phone, its expected that the subscriber will know what they sign-up for.

The cellular operators would need to ensure that they dont bundle or sell these services to unscruplous advertising agencies which spam cellular service users with unwanted calls and sms -- since the approximate location of the user will be known to the operator, steps to avoid misuse  must be taken.