India has decreed that, from 2017, all phones must be sold with a panic button that lets users instantly alert the emergency services. A year later and all devices sold must also come with GPS as standard in order for authorities to quickly locate victims of sexual assault. According to India’s Economic Times, a long press on either the 5 or 9 button on a feature phone will be routed straight to police. In addition, smartphones will have to provide an on-screen emergency button or enable a panic call to be placed by — for instance — pressing the sleep/wake button three times in succession.
It’s not just local manufacturers that will be forced to abide by the new ruling, with outfits such as Samsung and Apple also liable. It’s not the first time that manufacturers will have to tweak their designs to deal with local legislation. For instance, Russia imposed a hefty 25 percent import levy on all smartphones that didn’t support its homegrown navigation system, GLONASS.
The move has come from the country’s telecoms minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, who said that he made the decision to “help our women in distress.” India is currently dealing with what the Daily Beast has described as a rape crisis. The number of reported violent sexual assaults in the country has gone up by nearly 13,000 in the last five years. There is no telling how many unreported attacks are going on, although one stat suggests that a woman is raped in the country once every fifteen minutes.
Mashable quotes Prasad as saying that “technology is solely meant to make human life better, and what better than using it for the security of women.” The industry’s relationship with sexual assault is a complex one, since most of its efforts are directed at creating panic buttons rather than addressing the cause. Companies such as Wisewear are developing wearable technology disguised as jewelry that will alert the emergency services in the event of an attack.