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Putting a Panic Button In Smartphone Users' Hands

timothy posted about a year ago | from the menu-options-have-recently-changed dept.

Cellphones 175

theodp writes "If you own an Android phone, you may have inadvertently butt-dialed 911 from time-to-time. So, wonders Kix Panganiban, why don't our phones come with a universal 'Panic Button', that would make it just as easy to intentionally dial the police when it's truly needed? Panganiban envisions "a smartphone app that when triggered, would discreetly send out a distress message to contacts of your choice, and perhaps do some other functions that can get you out of bad (and maybe even life-threatening) situations." While a quick search reveals that some have taken a crack at apps that put a Panic Button in smartphone users' hands, are there good reasons why such a feature isn't just standard on mobile devices? And, with GPS and always-watching and always-listening tech only becoming cheaper and more ubiquitous, how far out in the future is it before your person can be continuously remotely monitored like your residence, even while mobile, and what might that look like?"

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Yes, here's why... (5, Funny)

QuietLagoon (813062) | about a year ago | (#45753713)

are there good reasons why such a feature isn't just standard on mobile devices?

Florida Woman Calls 911 After McDonald's Runs Out of McNuggets [google.com]

.
There are too many stupid people on this planet, and our emergency response people are already overworked without having to respond to McNugget shortages.

*sigh* (3, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about a year ago | (#45753785)

In today's world, few people seem to recognize an emergency situation. When I was growing up, the word "emergency" meant that someone's life was in jeopardy. One or more lives were in danger from an avalanche, a runaway train, a mad dog, a bank robber - something serious. And, people understood that they should avoid such emergency situations, or deal with the situation themselves.

Today? As you point out, very stupid people think that it's an emergency when they can't get their Chicken McNuggets.

Preposterous.

I say we go back to dealing with our own little emergencies, and just call the cops to come clean up after the fact. After all, when seconds count, the cops are only minutes away! Let's just grow up, learn to avoid and/or deal with emergencies, and stop fretting over phone apps.

Re:*sigh* (5, Insightful)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#45753925)

The police have worked their hardest to break that idea. I had a bike stolen. I called the non-emergency number to report it. I was told that to report a crime, I'd have to come to the station or dial 911. I've been to a station before, where the "guests" are treated like criminals, so I'd not do that. So the only practical way to report a non-emergency crime is to dial 911. The "stupid people" referred to wanted a police response because of a property disagreement. That they were black and inarticulate make news because we get to make fun of people for being stupid for doing what the police have explicitly told me was the "right" thing to do.

The system is designed to make people make stupid choices, so we can bash the user, rather than fix the problem. One guy in the search suggested was criminally deprived of his property. That's worthy of a 911 call, as the police have personally told me. But no, lets make fun of him because it was "just a McDonald's hamburger."

Re:*sigh* (0)

mark-t (151149) | about a year ago | (#45754183)

How are you treated like a criminal when reporting a non-emergency crime at the station?

Re:*sigh* (0)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year ago | (#45754241)

The furry suit probably didn't help much.

Re:*sigh* (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45754425)

because cops treat everyone like a criminal. especially if you're in a place where everyone is usually a criminal or a cop.

Re:*sigh* (2)

mark-t (151149) | about a year ago | (#45754683)

Although I realize this is anecdotal, neither I, nor anyone else that I personally know has ever been treated like a criminal for going into a police station to report an incident. Nonetheless, it does mean that your generalization is not universal. If this is happening to you, it means you live in a city with a crappy police force.

Anecdotal Support (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45756201)

In the past forty years I have had many dealings with police. With only one exception where I encountered a moronic traffic cop that could not differentiate between "nearly ran a red light" and did not run a red light, I have always been treated with the utmost respect. Officers took my complaints willingly and were outwardly supportive. That's not to say that the matter didn't immediately die when we parted, but I've never been treated like a criminal. Of course, I should have started by stating that I have never been a criminal, so maybe that factors into it.

Re:*sigh* (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | about a year ago | (#45754525)

He has to wait in line?

Re:*sigh* (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year ago | (#45754817)

One has to also generally wait in line to do things like buy groceries.

Re:*sigh* (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | about a year ago | (#45755623)

That's what maids are for!

Re:*sigh* (2)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#45756285)

Put in a "holding cell" to fill out paperwork, and made to wait for an arraignment for someone to accept my papers. I can't just make a statement and walk out, or download forms and fill them out to drop off. Because it generates work for them, they try to make it as unpleasant as possible.

Re:*sigh* (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45754219)

In Finland you can file a police report online. Seems like a good idea to me.

Re:*sigh* (1)

cjjjer (530715) | about a year ago | (#45755019)

Here in Winnipeg Canada they have the Citizen Online Reporting System http://winnipeg.ca/police/coplogic/default_cats.stm [winnipeg.ca] . Not all crimes can be reported but probably most of the common ones...

Re:*sigh* (1)

QuietLagoon (813062) | about a year ago | (#45754307)

But no, lets make fun of him because it was "just a McDonald's hamburger."

I'm sorry, but to call 911 because you didn't get what you wanted at McDonalds is just plain stupid (and in some jurisdictions reason for a citation or arrest), no matter how to try to spin things based upon your weird personal experiences.

Re:*sigh* (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#45756303)

Three separate incidents I found (the top 3 in the suggested search) were of the same thing, McDonald's orders not filled properly. How about this. You got to a car dealer. You sign to buy a Ford Mustang. They give you a test drive with it (pictures on the menu). When you take delivery, there is no engine in it. You question them about it, and they say "all sales are final." You request a refund (which you are entiteld to by law). They refuse. So, do you take them to court, waiting years to get a refund, if at all, or call the police on them for fraud/theft? They took your money and didn't give you what was agreed. Oh yeah, calling 911 because you didn't get what you wanted is stupid.

Or it's the "normal" and "expected" response, but for arbitrary value numbers different than you think they should be.

Re:*sigh* (1)

rsilvergun (571051) | about a year ago | (#45753961)

Uh, dude, she's not stupid, she's mentally ill. See, in America we do all we can to ignore mental illness and blame it on a. upbringing or b. ignorance. The best part about real mental illness is it's often acute. e.g. sudden shifts in brain chemistry can turn a regular person into on of you're 'stupid people' overnight. Plus it's chemical, and the imbalances are often hereditary. Where did you think the phrase "runs in the family" comes from?

Re:*sigh* (3, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year ago | (#45754223)

Where did you think the phrase "runs in the family" comes from?

Diarrhea . . . ?

Re:*sigh* (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45754313)

We used to keep them in institutions where they wouldn't be a danger to themselves or others, but the Liberals thought that was too mean to lock people up for "being different" and the Republicans thought it was too expensive, so we stopped.

Re:*sigh* (2)

mlts (1038732) | about a year ago | (#45755039)

Sadly, we have plenty of institutions for the mentally ill... they are called private jails or private prisons.

Re:*sigh* (1)

davester666 (731373) | about a year ago | (#45755167)

Sorry, Republican's prefer that they be incarcerated. That way, they can learn to be able to depend on themselves for help.

Re:*sigh* (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45754331)

I'm sorry, but this is just plain bullshit. Mental illnesses often times run in families because of genetics and the tendency to not receive adequate treatment to reduce the non-hereditary component.

As far as chemical imbalances go, that's never been supported by research to cause mental illness, prescriptions are prescribed to help with the imbalance, but the imbalance is not what causes the mental illness. The cause of mental illness is neurological as in the structures of the brain and the connections within the brain have issues. Which is why nobody is ever cured by pills, but people who learn how to influence their mood based upon correcting their thoughts do often times see years and even decades of remission.

What's more, with modern SPECT scans and fMRIs it's possible to literally see the abnormalities that result in mental illness. The chemical imbalance theory is mostly just a short term fix while the actual treatments are handed out.

Re:Yes, here's why... (1)

gweihir (88907) | about a year ago | (#45753789)

Indeed. That is why they ask you "what is your emergency" and then decide what, if any, people to send.

Re:Yes, here's why... (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year ago | (#45753803)

There are too many stupid people on this planet, and our emergency response people are already overworked without having to respond to McNugget shortages.

You'd be surprised to learn that there's even dumber reasons people call -- the most common call a 911 dispatcher gets is not shots fired, debris in road, or any of that... it's what the current score is for whatever game is currently on in town. I shit you not, people call by the thousands.

People are dumb, stupid animals... but they occasionally get hurt, and need help. Even if 99% of the time, when they yell help it's over something utterly retarded, sooner or later, everyone is the 1% that really does need it. And that's why we have 911.

Re:Yes, here's why... (1)

pauljlucas (529435) | about a year ago | (#45754147)

You'd be surprised to learn that there's even dumber reasons people call ...

Why don't they tack on a $100 "911 call charge" to the caller's phone bill for every call? That ought to make the idiots learn pretty quickly.

The charge would be waived if any emergency personnel are actually dispatched.

Re:Yes, here's why... (1)

Sique (173459) | about a year ago | (#45754351)

Because that would make the prank of calling 911 from your acquaintance's phone just more fun. And maybe call it several times. And then don't tell anyone who did the actual call.

Re:Yes, here's why... (1)

pauljlucas (529435) | about a year ago | (#45754559)

And then maybe get a better circle of friends.

Re:Yes, here's why... (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year ago | (#45755115)

All calls are recorded, right? Get them to play it back to you.

Re:Yes, here's why... (1)

Sique (173459) | about a year ago | (#45755489)

You didn't get it, right? Someone is using your phone for a 911-call. And you are left with a $100 bill for each call. And none of your acquaintances will tell you who placed the call. Who do you sue?

Re:Yes, here's why... (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | about a year ago | (#45755483)

The article is really about a "Panic" button, not a 911 call. A "Panic" button that would automatically start sending live sound and continuous high res photos to a safe server, for example one owned by Apple / Google. Using both cameras if you have one on each side. So if you or someone else gets into trouble, with criminals or otherwise, there is undestructible evidence of it, and the criminals know it. Or if you think the police is doing something wrong, taking away your phone won't help them.

Theft is an emergency situation. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45753885)

It may not necessarily be as urgent as other types of emergencies, but theft is often considered important enough for responsive police action.

If you walk into a shop and steal a small item, say a bag of potato chips worth only a dollar or two, nobody would think twice about the shopkeeper calling the police, reporting the theft, and then expecting them and the judicial system to act upon the theft, even seeing it through to prosecution and punishment. Sure, it was only a bag of potato chips worth a dollar, but it's still a theft that's worthy of due process.

It's really no different when a restaurant advertises the availability of a food product, yet fails to keep sufficient quantity in stock. If you were led to believe that you could purchase an advertised item, yet you show up only to find out at the point of sale that it is unavailable, it is very much a form of theft. The business has stolen your time, and they have likely also subjected you to other costs (gasoline, wear on a vehicle, transit fare, and so on) without some form of reimbursement. This is especially true if they made no effort to mitigate your loss by widely and clearly publicizing the shortage, so as to prevent you from incurring the expense in the first place. The taking of your time, and forcing you to expend money you otherwise would not have, should be considered forms of theft.

Theft against an individual by a business should be treated just as importantly as theft against a business by an individual. Contacting the authorities regarding a theft is a very reasonable course of action, and should be followed up (even if not immediately) regardless of the circumstances.

Re:Theft is an emergency situation. (0)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about a year ago | (#45753947)

And, you are obviously one of those people who should NOT have a panic button on your phone. In fact, maybe you shouldn't have a phone.

Re:Theft is an emergency situation. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45754045)

His argument seems reasonable enough to me. Getting something taken from you against your will is not a pleasant experience. It doesn't matter if it's a hobo taking it from you, or if it's a thug, or if it's a fast food restaurant, or if it's an investment banker. Theft is harmful, plain and simple. While I agree that it may not require an emergency dispatch of the highest priority, getting as-swift-as-possible police intervention against the perpetrator of the theft does sound just and reasonable. Calling 911 is often the best way to contact the authorities, and it should be up to the 911 dispatchers to prioritize the response based on the information they've received. I think it's quite crass of you to deny victims of theft, regardless of who the perpetrator is, the ability to seek help.

Re:Theft is an emergency situation. (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about a year ago | (#45754195)

Obviously, you have never heard of a rain check. The local vendor advertises a special of some sort - say, McNuggets for half price. He orders what he believes to be enough to meet demand at the lower price - but runs out. Generally, if you ask for a rain check, the manager will give you a rain check, giving you half price McNuggets on your next visit. He may even throw in a free Coke, for having inconvenienced you.

He hasn't taken anything FROM YOU after all. He made an offer, which was good for everyone who walked through the door, until he ran out of product. Unless he accepted cash money from you for the McNuggets, then failed to deliver those McNuggets which you had paid for, then he has taken nothing from you.

Stuff happens.

Re:Theft is an emergency situation. (2)

beelsebob (529313) | about a year ago | (#45754421)

It may not necessarily be as urgent as other types of emergencies, but theft is often considered important enough for responsive police action.

If people's lives are not in danger, it's not an emergency.

You can quite happily call the police on their normal number to report a theft.

Samsung had this on their candy bar phones (2)

Skinkie (815924) | about a year ago | (#45753733)

Pressing 4 times volume down, it would allow you to trigger an emergency sms. Such combination could work for a typical smartphone as well, including position information.

Re:Samsung had this on their candy bar phones (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about a year ago | (#45753907)

When I push X times volume down, I usually want the volume go down x steps, or want it on zero.

Also, Siri: how can I help you?
Me: emergency call.

Also my locked I phone has an emergency call button at the keyboard.

The problem (2)

kruach aum (1934852) | about a year ago | (#45753735)

To be useful, any panic button should be so easily accessible that it is open to the same accidental triggering as butt-dials. I can't think of a good way to resolve this issue, but it is something any proper app maker will have to deal with.

Re:The problem (3, Interesting)

erikkemperman (252014) | about a year ago | (#45753879)

The company I work at wanted to do something like this for, eg epilepsy patients. Triggered by accelerometers, would automagically try to contact from a preselected list of friends/relatives, using location tracking to find the nearest ones first. Would start to make loud noises and flash instructions on screen for passers by on how they might help. Escalate to real emergency services if need be. Pretty good idea, but we somehow never hot around to building it.

Of course there was potential for false alarms by dropping the device, but in that case it would be no problem for the patient to deactivate it.

Re:The problem (1)

Entropius (188861) | about a year ago | (#45754093)

That's actually a very good idea. And the false alarms could be dealt with by further readings from the accelerometer -- "in guy's pocket while he's seizing" and "dropped on ground" don't look the same.

Liability (3, Interesting)

BenJeremy (181303) | about a year ago | (#45753751)

Who wants to be the first developer to get sued when your program doesn't dial 911 (perhaps because there is no signal)? Who wants to be the first developer sued because it got the location wrong?

Way too much liability potential. IT is too important a thing to mess up, and you can bet that something will mess up eventually, and the developer will be blamed, regardless of whether or not they are actually responsible.

Excuse me, Mr Thug, while I press my panic button. (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45753757)

Is the answer not obvious? IT'S JUST PLAIN A BAD IDEA THAT DOES NOT WORK IN THE REAL WORLD! That's why it's not common.

So let's say that you're about to get thieved by a bunch of ghetto youth. They're talking in ebonics, and by the time you decipher what they're trying to say, they've shoved a gun in your back and have relieved you of your wallet, your keys, and the phone with the panic button. Oh fuck, it's useless now.

In other situations, you're either dead or so badly injured that you can't manage to activate the button. In other cases, if you're well enough to use the panic button, you're well enough to make an emergency phone call.

Why is this story even on Slashdot? It's asininely stupid, with an answer that is blatantly obvious.

Re:Excuse me, Mr Thug, while I press my panic butt (1)

Qzukk (229616) | about a year ago | (#45754281)

Me: HELLO 911?

Op: What is your emergency sir?

Me: I AM HIDING IN MY CLOSET FROM THE GUY WHO KILLED MY WIFE AND IS RANSACKING MY HOUSE!

Op: Please quiet down, if you yell he'll hear you and find you.

Me: HOW ELSE CAN THE ASSHOLE POSTING ABOVE ME HEAR ME IF I DON'T SHOUT?

Seriously, though, I've always wondered why the hell it's taken 20+ years to be able to send texts to 911. At least when they finally get around to it, they'll be set up for MMS and you can send them the pic of the getaway car [cnn.com] or whatever.

Re:Excuse me, Mr Thug, while I press my panic butt (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year ago | (#45754513)

So let's say that you're about to get thieved by a bunch of ghetto youth. They're talking in ebonics, and by the time you decipher what they're trying to say, they've shoved a gun in your back and have relieved you of your wallet, your keys, and the phone with the panic button.

While you have your hands up, point to your regular eyeglasses and say that they are Google Glasses, and have already transmitted pictures of them to the police. So they'd better just run away, before they get themselves into more trouble.

If you are not wearing regular eyeglasses, claim that you are wearing Google Contact Lenses.

That aside, you are correct, even if you did had time to call 911, by the time the cops got there, the crime would be history. Criminals are not afraid of 911. They plan to be gone, before the police get there. They are afraid of getting caught later. And they have seen enough CSI/Law & Whatevers to be afraid of cameras.

However, if your local police are tolerant of armed robbery, then the thieves won't be afraid of being caught anyway, and will go ahead and commit the crime. Crime prevention is really as simple as that. So instead of spending money on panic button technology, the money would be better spent on better policing. If a thief thinks he will get caught, he won't commit the crime.

Re:Excuse me, Mr Thug, while I press my panic butt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45755161)

The problem is that the US penalties for a crime are so severe:

Armed robbery can get 20-life in the US, especially if someone is a repeat offender. Add to this the firearm charges which can tack 10-20 years onto a sentence (and judges will make those served consecutively because the private prison lobbyists will not renew their campaign funding if that isn't the case.)

Murder can get 20-life.

If someone will be mainlining it for the rest of their days, you have far fewer people in general population trying to turn you into their punk if you go for murder than an armed robbery.

So, the thief who gets told about the glasses is going to just fire their .40 at the glasses and call it done, perhaps have someone else film the shooting so they get street cred in their gang.

This is why home invasions, and "knock and shoots" are becoming the standard compared to just burglaries. Scaring a family will likely guarentee that the bad guys won't be caught, as opposed to a burglary. If the family has cameras, a click on a hammer will get them to hand over the DVR media posthaste.

Combine this with the fact that police are way underfunded unless it is terrorism related, and either the crime gets stopped by the homeowner, or it will remain unsolved. Not many police departments will go after a burglary case unless someone was killed. There just isn't the funding there.

Only thing one can do is move to a smaller town that gives a shit about its emergency services, or move to a red state where a burglar will face more than just a guy dialing 911.

Re:Excuse me, Mr Thug, while I press my panic butt (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year ago | (#45755155)

Is the answer not obvious? IT'S JUST PLAIN A BAD IDEA THAT DOES NOT WORK IN THE REAL WORLD! That's why

This.

In a situation which gives you enough time to find the special app, you could also dial 911.

In other situations it won't make any difference.

Plus there's FAR too many stupid people out there who'll treat it like a free consultation line every time *anything* happens to them.

Sigh. (5, Informative)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year ago | (#45753767)

Apparently people have already forgotten this has been done before. Before there were smart phones, there were just plain cell phones... tiny little indestructible bricks with flip-open LCDs. And it was thought that having a fast way to call 911, a panic button if you will, would be a useful feature. So pressing and holding '9' on these phones would connect you to emergency services.

This feature was redacted from all phones, everywhere, within a couple years, because it innundated emergency services with so-called "butt dials" and wrong numbers. You do not want '911' to be a one-button push on a mobile device. It ends badly.

Re:Sigh. (1)

anss123 (985305) | about a year ago | (#45753869)

My grandma has a phone with a single button for making an alarm call. It's straight forwards, easy to use, and promptly forgotten in any emergency situation. Features like these are fine on paper, but unless you call 911/the police often you will forget them in a panic.

If movies and TVs always showed people pressing "the emergency button" instead of "911", then people might use it.

Re:Sigh. (1)

s.petry (762400) | about a year ago | (#45753921)

This! It is not a difficult process to dial 911 today. Finding a panic button, or using a panic button, is not going to save anyone time or effort. If the panic button is unprotected, we will have a rash of false 911 calls from these phones and of course who pays the bill? The user who had their phone locked and went to the rest room? If the panic button is protected, the user still has to unlock their screen to get to said panic button.

Re:Sigh. (0)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about a year ago | (#45754221)

I can remember when there was no 911. I guess I was still in high school, when Los Angeles first started working on the system. No one around home could figure out what was so difficult about calling the sheriff's office, or the state police. We managed somehow, before the advent of a special telephone code for emergencies. In fact, you almost invariably had to go into someone's home, or a place of business to place the call - and the local emergency numbers were usually posted close to the phone. We managed.

I'm of the opinion that we should STOP putting warning labels on everything in the world. "Please do not place face in front of lawn mower discharge chute" is so stupid. Go on, PUT YOUR FACE HERE!! Doing so has a high probability of removing some crud from the gene pool - as well as decreasing the likelihood of an accidental emergency call.

Re:Sigh. (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year ago | (#45754213)

So how to you reconcile not having a single button push on a mobile device with a phone that has a lock screen. The point being that it should not require you a password on the lock screen to be entered in order to call emergency, but you do not want anyone who is not calling emergency to otherwise use the phone.

it's easy on a Moto X (1)

AxemRed (755470) | about a year ago | (#45753783)

"Ok Google Now. Call 911."

And (1)

koan (80826) | about a year ago | (#45753797)

"And, with GPS and always-watching and always-listening tech only becoming cheaper and more ubiquitous, how far out in the future is it before your person can be continuously remotely monitored like your residence,"

Why would you want it?

"Engage shields" in certain situations? (1)

theodp (442580) | about a year ago | (#45754175)

Admittedly, it could be pretty intrusive, but I can envision certain situations where one might want to have someone "keeping an eye on you" for at least a short period of time: driving in bad weather, bad areas (ever have your GPS direct you to "take a shortcut" through a drug-dealing neighborhood or industrial area?), etc.

Re:"Engage shields" in certain situations? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45754291)

I have epilepsy but it's under control now with medication. Before, when I was having seizures I would've been very happy with what I've seen as a prototype app: It uses the accelerometer to detect a seizure and then calls a preset number and gives the current position. That person can then dial back and ask about the situation or call for an ambulance if there's no answer.

For me that would have been a tremendous relief considering how many times I had seizures alone and tried to get help but was unable to use my mobile despite trying (except once when I was able to redial the last number and that relative of mine could guess what had happened when she heard the noises I was making and called an ambulance).

Re:"Engage shields" in certain situations? (1)

koan (80826) | about a year ago | (#45754363)

There is a special device for people like you, they rest of us don't need our gear compromised because of your medical issues.

Re:"Engage shields" in certain situations? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45755507)

Believe it or not, they now sell cellular telephones that run general purpose operating systems! People with different requirements can get different features on the same hardware just by running different applications! The GP could choose to run some special tracking software without affecting your system in any way. Amazing.

Re:"Engage shields" in certain situations? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45756235)

There is a special device for people like you, they rest of us don't need our gear compromised because of your medical issues.

Feel free to buy a phone without GPS and pretend that your location is not traceable through cell towers. The rest of us accept that new technology allows both good and bad applications.

Re:"Engage shields" in certain situations? (1)

koan (80826) | about a year ago | (#45754359)

Using your phone a computer it can already be done.

This is how they sell you oppression, you will be *safer*.

Samsung SOS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45753815)

Previous Samsung phones had an SOS function, that I now miss. You can configure up to 4 phone numbers to receive the SOS message, and you trigger it by pressing the volume button 4 times in succession while the phone is locked.

When the SOS function is triggered, the phone sends an SMS to the programmed numbers, then enters SOS mode and auto answers calls from these numbers.

It was a reassuring function to have, although I never had to use it. As it was activated via a hardware button, it wasn't difficult to do so discreetly with the phone in your pocket or bag. It would also vibrate once so you had feedback that the activation was successful.

Why not car crash detection instead? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45753877)

I'd be better if phones came with car crash detection instead. It's quite easy to do (subject moving a more than 20mph, sudden halt, huge haptic feedback on the sensor) and could save lives more than a panic button. Hell with Bluetooth enabled car, even air bag deployment could send a signal to a phone to enable GPS and call 911 automaticaly.

Re:Why not car crash detection instead? (1)

ScottCooperDotNet (929575) | about a year ago | (#45753903)

How would it tell an accident from a sudden stop without an accident? Or even being thrown?

Re:Why not car crash detection instead? (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about a year ago | (#45754005)

So, I'm visualizing here. "No, Joe, I don't want the phone to panic when I throw it against the wall." So, Joe picks Jim up, and throws HIM against the wall. Joe asks, "Do you want the phone to panic now, or not?"

Judgement call here, LMAO!

Re:Why not car crash detection instead? (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about a year ago | (#45754191)

I'd be better if phones came with car crash detection instead. It's quite easy to do (subject moving a more than 20mph, sudden halt, huge haptic feedback on the sensor) and could save lives more than a panic button. Hell with Bluetooth enabled car, even air bag deployment could send a signal to a phone to enable GPS and call 911 automaticaly.

Wouldn't it be sufficient to put car-crash detection in cars themselves? And call it "On Star" or something?

Maybe more than that? (1)

mlts (1038732) | about a year ago | (#45755175)

What would be nice is a BT interface (read-only of course) that can tell if car doors are opened. That way, if someone is going through a bad neighborhood, if a window is broken or one of the doors is opened before the person gets to the destination or deactivates the app, it is assumed that a carjacking happened, and the vehicle would either run for a bit and stall, or some other behavior.

Re: Why not car crash detection instead? (1)

Gibby13 (2675437) | about a year ago | (#45755901)

My car dash app on my phone already does this..... And on another note, when my phone is locked all I have to press is emergency call then 911 and any other number I have allowed can be dialed with out having to unlock the phone. Simple and easy. I would like a way to quickly activate the microphone, start taking pics and recording GPS cords then upload then upload them to my server or a subset of them on different time intervals. Hell even make barking or siren noises. Guess I know have a weekend project. I like the idea of a panic, but it should have to be enabled, and be highly configurable. Maybe a special code on the lock screen. Or volume up and down X number of times, not just down 4 times. And butt dialing... WTF! There is no god damn excuse for it anymore. If you butt dial you should have your phone privileges revoked. End of story.

Glance for Pebble (1)

Thumper_SVX (239525) | about a year ago | (#45753927)

Glance on my Pebble Smartwatch does this. I think a smartwatch is a much better place for a true "panic button". I mean, in a truly difficult situation you're going to have problems entering a passcode or pattern if you have your device locked... which you should, by the way.

In Glance there's a function that allows me to set a button long press to send an emergency text to the contact of my choice including my longitude and latitude (obviously only as precise as the smartphone itself can manage). Quite a nice feature in my opinion. And it's a lot easier to do a long press on a button on your wrist than fish your phone out of your pocket or purse, enter a passcode, find and launch an app and hit a button on the screen.

A physical panic button is the best solution. If you're in dire need (heart attack, accident etc) then you may not be in a position to use the app on the phone. The old "really dumb phones" like the Firefly had it right.

What, like this one? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45753931)

http://www.just5.com/phones_new.php?model=509&color=Grey
It's a great phone for oldsters, just for that reason.

Lost phone button (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45753949)

Phones should have a button on the home screen for lost and found, that lets the finder send a message. More useful than 911.

How? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45754141)

HTF does someone butt dial with a smartphone? There's a lock screen, ffs. This strikes me as a case of someone not understanding how to use a smartphone.

On an Apple product (1)

Teun (17872) | about a year ago | (#45754155)

On an Apple product it would be called the iPanick button.

And have round corners.

My first "App" for my N900 (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about a year ago | (#45754169)

The panic button was the first "app" I wrote for my N900, and I use that term very loosely. Actually, just a one-liner using an existing python script:

python ssms.py NPANXXxxxx 'I''ve been kidnapped by aliens!'

A crude drawing of an alien saved as an icon file and an entry in the desktop icons directory and I had a text message panic button.

Naturally, I never tried adding the dialing of 911 in the script, for no other reason than testing it would call 911 and they don't like that.

What's the point? (2)

felrom (2923513) | about a year ago | (#45754171)

I'm getting beaten. *Press panic button* *Wait 10 -15 minutes for the police to arrive.*

The police are there to write reports and do light investigation. They are not, and never were, a rapid response force, ready at a moment's notice to alleviate your panic.

The suggestion of panic buttons on phones is not only not helpful, it sends the problem further in the wrong direction. Some people will reason that since their phone has a panic button, they can take risks they might otherwise not.

Re:What's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45754247)

The police are there to write reports and do light investigation. They are not, and never were, a rapid response force, ready at a moment's notice to alleviate your panic.

There is a segment of society that believes this... the basement dwellers... the libertarians... the rural homeowners. I get it. I've been there.

However, these days I live in a big city (several million people)... if you go to any of the more busy regions here, you will see fairly regular patrols of heavily armed police (in a country that does not like guns).

Re:What's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45754423)

If you are getting beaten to death you whip out your gun like George Zimmerman and shoot the fucking thug.

Re:What's the point? (1)

geekmux (1040042) | about a year ago | (#45754791)

I'm getting beaten. *Press panic button* *Wait 10 -15 minutes for the police to arrive.*

The police are there to write reports and do light investigation. They are not, and never were, a rapid response force, ready at a moment's notice to alleviate your panic.

The suggestion of panic buttons on phones is not only not helpful, it sends the problem further in the wrong direction. Some people will reason that since their phone has a panic button, they can take risks they might otherwise not.

I'm not quite sure where you get your definition of police, but those armed with shotguns, sidearms, and MP-5's to go to work every day are NOT members of the elite Paperwork Pushers Unit. What you have described here is the job of the coroner, which is the result of having no police force at all.

It has been proven that a first responder has actually saved lives before, and not just shown up to do light investigation. No shit. You should read about it.

And for those elite folk who want to confuse a 911 app with a personal emergency concierge service, well I wish them the best of luck as they compete for the annual Darwin Awards. The world obviously needs more smarts behind the smartphones.

What's the point? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year ago | (#45755405)

The police are there to write reports and do light investigation. They are not, and never were, a rapid response force, ready at a moment's notice to alleviate your panic.

Your focus on a single edge case has lead you to an erroneous conclusion.

You seem to forget, there are other services that are reached via 9-1-1... like the fire department and EMS, which *are* rapid response forces. You also seem to forget that there *are* times when the polices and sheriffs are a rapid response force, such as a major traffic accident, to support fire and EMS in the event of a large incident, responding to major robberies, etc... etc...

Re: What's the point? (1)

Gibby13 (2675437) | about a year ago | (#45756005)

Who says the panic button has to contact the police? Press panic button, select getting beat by gang. This would go to my CWP buddies before going to the police.

A watch would be better (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45754215)

A bluetooth panic watch would be better. A watch with two buttons on either side that would have to be press with a little force. First press would be a "I might need assistance". And the second press would be "Help, I need Help now". The dispatching of the police would have to be different. The police would disperse into the community in such a way that each patrol would only be seconds away from anyone that needed help. Dispatching would be mostly automate.

BlackBerry triple-click using the side key (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45754441)

The older BlackBerry phones have programmable keys (not a simulated key on a touch screen). Apps like CommandClick (http://highglacier.com/page.aspx?q=cc) could use that feature to send an email or Text with your location to anyone you want, by say, triple or quadruple clicking a button.

You could do this while the phone was hidden in your pocket. The phone would vibrate to indicate it took the command. So you could set up a 911 text if you want, or a use it to send a text to a friend to maybe come over and make sure you are all right - say if you were showing an open house and somebody sketchy comes in.

Can't do anything like that with touchscreen phones- no buttons that an app can monitor!

BT subdermal implant.... (1)

n3tm0nk (2725243) | about a year ago | (#45754509)

So, even if the perps got your phone, as long as they are within range, you could transmit. Possibly even set a standard for any bt device in range to transmit info when receiving a panic signal.

Already exists (1)

rasmusbr (2186518) | about a year ago | (#45754583)

There are already several apps that do this. The way they work is you have to "arm" the app. Next, you trigger the emergency function in a preset way, for example by discreetly unplugging the headset from the headphone jack.

Having an always on emergency button would probably not work because it would lead to too many false alarms.

911? 112!! (0)

frootcakeuk (638517) | about a year ago | (#45754673)

Isn't 112 the default emercency number for *all* android mobiles in US and EU at least?

Re:911? 112!! (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | about a year ago | (#45755355)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/9-1-1 [wikipedia.org]

but i would bet that most carriers will redirect to 911 for any of the more common "others"

Because no one wants to be responsible for failure (1)

manicbutt (162342) | about a year ago | (#45754849)

Skype doesn't support 911 calls because they can't be reliably traced ...and because they don't want to be held to collecting fees to pay for 911. There's nothing to be gained by playing this game, only losses. If your service connects 99% of the time, the media will descend like a pack of starving hyenas when (not if) a vulnerable person is let down by an imperfect system.

This is why we have inherently governmental functions, to do the unpopular/unprofitable things that the private sector won't take on.

Just have the NSA call for you (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45755061)

After all, they know where you are; they are monitoring your calls; I'm sure they can turn on your phone if hackers can. So why not have them do it as a "Public Service" ?

Isn't that what the emergency call button is for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45755215)

My Nexus 4 lock screen has a huge area at the base of the touch screen marked "Emergency Call". I've never pushed it, but I imagine it either calls 911 directly or (more likely since 911 may actually be 999 or 112 depending on jurisdiction) opens the dial pad and lets me dial 911/999/112 etv.

Solution exists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45755311)

I found this solution on the indiegogo website, which seems exactly what Kix is asking for - http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/safetylink-safety-for-everybody-everywhere

SafetyLINK is a possible solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45755341)

Is this what Kix is looking for ? http://www.safetylink.org/
Appears to be crowdfunded as of now - http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/safetylink-safety-for-everybody-everywhere

Re: Better solution, don't be an idiot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45755429)

My car's keyless entry FOB has a well designed recessed panic button for keeping me from getting raped or something. It honks the horns and flashes the lights. Sometimes I use the button just to annoy people, but that's another subject entirely.

The point is, I have not once EVER "butt dialed" 911.

I HAVE accidentally hit the panic button on my keyless entry fob dozens of times. I say dozens, because there is a large percentage of my life where I am not close enough to my car to notice I hit that button. I have noticed myself hitting that button accidentally several times despite it's recessed nature.

Look, when I do something stupid, I do this shit too. IE: Try to blame the implementation of technology or a missing feature for not saving me from my own stupid. I try to invent new gadgets which would have prevented "shit happens" from happening because I over-estimate the frequency that other people have the same problem.

Panic buttons require a single buttom press ignoring all other inputs. On a cell phone, 911 requires four button presses in the correct order with all other combinations of input rejected.

Just dedicate your left front pocket to cell phone and cell phone ONLY and wear jeans that fit like a normal person and you should be fine. If all else fails, fix your screen lock with a numeric pin or facial recognition or something. This is a behavioral problem, not a tech problem.

A potential solution ? (1)

Niranjan Rajaghatta (3470683) | about a year ago | (#45755479)

SafetyLINK - this is what Kix is looking for ? http://safetylink.org/ [safetylink.org] This solution is being crowdfunded on Indiegogo - http://igg.me/at/safetylink [igg.me]

Re:A potential solution? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45756417)

We have been looking at different solutions available - as a safety is a concern in India where I am from. When you look at everything including practicality, costs, robustness, worldwide applicability our research showed the safetylink solution scored the most. We looked at over 40 different apps and one bluetooth device biisafe from finland. We also looked at mPers devices from lifecomm and ever there. Too expensive and clunky for the mass market.

Story: Why it's not great (1)

Pro923 (1447307) | about a year ago | (#45755599)

The previous phone that I had bought for my parents had this very feature. It had a prominent "911" button right on the phone. During setup, you program the phone to take a certain action when that button is pressed. In this case, I set it up to send a generic "Help - I'm in need of assistance" message to me and both of my sisters. A year later, we naturally forgot about this. One morning, around 2AM I got this strange message from my parents with that message. My sister called me soon after but no one could reach my parents - we feared the worst and called the police. Long story short - my mother had received a "wrong number" phone call late that night. In fumbling around in the dark, she had inadvertently sent the 911 distress. It took us a few days to piece together what actually happened, as we (at that point) had completely forgotten about the feature and it's function. So - morale of the story is I guess it can be a good thing, but the ease of use of sending a distress can also make it easy to send a false alarm and get a lot of people very worried and upset.

Overenginnered Android framework for 1-button app (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45755831)

I would like to see the overengineered framework that Google comes up with for a 1-button app. They managed to take the simplest possible SQL database, SQLite, and create one of the most obscenely engineered frameworks on top of it I've ever seen.

obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45756215)

... threee

Baby (1)

Flymo2 (2703789) | about a year ago | (#45756455)

No one here have/had a baby? That button would be getting pressed a lot.
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