Monday, March 09, 2015

Using your cell phone as a weapon for self defence

Imagine a special button on your cell phone. In an emergency, such as a situation in which you are afraid you are about to be attacked by a criminal, point the cell phone at him and press the button to take his photo - this may well be the last photograph you take! The picture would be sent instantaneously for safekeeping to a remote server with location and time information. The audio channel would be switched on and a loud warning issued to the attacker; something like "Your photograph has been sent to the police. Avoid all violence!" Any conversation would be recorded and preserved on the server. The record would be preserved for use by the law & order authorities later on. Text and or email alerts would be sent to a set of pre-stored addresses.
The attacker would probably grab the phone and smash it, providing a useful distraction. You can improve the situation by throwing the phone into a bush or over a fence! Would the attacker be enraged and punish you? I cannot predict what will happen in the individual case but if the world comes to know that many people carry cell phones equipped with such an invention, attacks would surely come down.

The company or agency running the server should not allow the cell phone “owner” to retrieve or delete any recording sent to it. It should be treated as police property for investigation and use in a court.

Why did I think of such an invention? I was reading a very interesting article on the website of AAAS Science
Obviously, belief in an omnipresent god deters a lot of people from anti-social behavior. The fear is particularly effective as “god can punish you even after you are dead!”

I believe that the ubiquitous cell phone could have significant deterrent effect too!

Why do I publish this in a blog meant for students? I hope that some of them will implement a project based on this idea or an improved version. The implementation may be as simple as an app; you don't really need a special button!

CCTV cameras are playing a useful role in helping police catch criminals. I would like every cell phone to function as something equivalent to a CCTV camera. There is usually a cell phone wherever there is a potential victim! 


Srinivasan Ramani said...

A judge can refuse to admit a cell phone photograph as evidence if he feels that it was not obtained legally. Visit

I believe, however, that the proposal in my post to have a third party safeguard images sent consciously by the victim is free of legal infirmities.

Srinivasan Ramani said...

There was a discussion on CNN about the unfortunate crash of the Germanwings Airbus today. The anchor was saying that no hijack code was sent by the aircraft.

This idea of such a code might be relevant to this app. For instance, the user might enter a specific code to say "I am nervous about the situation I am in". This may be a person driving alone on a lonely road and noting that a car is following her. Or a person on a blind date regretting her decision to trust the companion. This code could enable GPS tracking of the phone or even remote audio recording of any sounds heard. Most importantly, the code might prime the phone to send an emergency message which triggers action as soon as it is thrown down. The acceleration sensors would detect the fall and send messages to the police and the security company.

Srinivasan Ramani said...

Every smartphone can work like a flight cum voice data recorder
A pilot seems to have been locked out of the cockpit of the Germanwings flight 4U9525, if you go by the following report in New York Times:

He is reported to have banged on the cockpit door and tried to break it down. Imagine you were a passenger on that flight. You would have surely noticed the commotion if you were in the front end of the passenger cabin. Imagine you could turn on a hazard recorder app on your smartphone and dictated a report into it. The app would have started recording location information including altitude using satellite data. Along with your voice record, it could have recorded sounds in the passenger cabin. The app might even have transmitted possible information to a cell phone tower below. Such an app would be particularly valuable in hijack situations.
A question that arises is about the survivability of the cell phone in a crash situation or a landing on water. No one is going to pay more for his cell phone to survive a hypothetical crash, but a cell phone that is water-proof, has the ability to float and some fall-survivability will have some appeal to sporty customers.

Srinivasan Ramani said...

Watches with heart rate sensors have come up in the market over the lat few years. One question that arises is this: Can a smart watch detect a heart attack and call a pre-determined phone number or send a text alert using a cell phone coupled to it? It should not be too difficult to implement; it could be a mere app on the cellphone.