This week the Indian government announced that from January 1st next year, all new phones sold in the country must include some form of “panic button” aimed at improving women’s security.
Furthermore, all phones will need to come equipped with GPS by January 2018, allowing the owner’s location to be accurately determined when the panic button is activated. Many of today’s mobile phones have featured GPS for years, but there are still a significant number of budget devices and feature phone models that don’t.
As far as feature phones are concerned, it has been suggested that panic mode could be triggered using the “5” or “9” keys (in some combination). However, it’s more complex for smartphones, the majority of which do not include a numeric keypad or even a physical keyboard. In this case, it has been suggested that either a dedicated button is provided, or an option to assign an existing button via a setting in the phones’ operating system. Companies like Apple don’t generally make region-specific hardware changes (aside from cellular radio chips to support specific network types and frequencies), so it’s likely to be something that would be enabled via the OS on most new devices.
The Indian government has suggested using a triple-click keypress, which would be fairly simple to implement in Android and iOS, simply as a region-specific setting.
The reasons for mandating the panic button on new devices is clear – to provide a quick means to summon the emergency services in situations where women (or anyone for that matter) feels threatened, for example when an assault is imminent.
Surprisingly, India does not yet have a single central emergency phone number across the country, but is said to be planning one sometime in 2016.
Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister of Communications and Information Technology, is reported to have said this week that “Technology is solely meant to make human life better and what better than using it for the security of women?”.
What are your thoughts on making a panic button mandatory in new mobiles? Should other countries also mandate the feature? As always, let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.