Response System for the Prevention of Emergencies, Crimes and Threats (ReSPECT)

“Violence against women must never be accepted, never excused, never tolerated. Every girl and woman has the right to be respected, valued and protected.” – Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary-General. Dec 2012.

In the developed countries like America, the 911 Emergency Telephone Number can be used when an emergency has occurred or is likely to occur. Being able to call an emergency phone number in the likelihood of occurrence of an emergency is powerful since it acts as a deterrent and is critical for the prevention of crime. However, in the developing and underdeveloped countries, while there may be phone numbers to call the police in emergency, these are not as effective in preventing and controlling crimes against citizen partly due to the lack of modern technologies (such as ability to locate a victim or being able to reach the victim in time). There may also be other psychological and sociological factors on citizens' part to hesitate in seeking help due to embarrassment, fear, guilt, involvement in potentially unnecessary burden or stigma associated with calling the police prematurely.

For example, in India, the phone numbers to call the police, medical and fire in emergency (100, 101, 102, 108 & 112) are designed to achieve the same purpose. However, these are not effective as evident from a large number of crimes still occurring. This may be partly due to the psychological and social reasons as stated above and party due to the lack of training, resources and inability to respond to all such calls by police and emergency service providers.

To address some of these issues, we built an add-on mechanism to the police emergency number that would help prevent the vulnerabilities from becoming emergencies and threat from becoming crimes. This centrally operated, citizen and police vehicle location aware, high-technology emergency support system is available for use to reach the citizens nationally and provide 24x7 friendly and helpful support in an easy-to-use manner. Our system has three major components:
  1. A wristband with a panic button worn by the citizens;
  2. A cluster of call centers staffed by highly trained and friendly agent who respond to the panic button presses, assess the situation, provide help and support and if necessary transfer the case to the nearest police vehicle;
  3. A tablet device in the police vehicle that enables them to receive the information about a potential emergency/crime and draws a most efficient path to the location of the potential victim.

Our add-on emergency support system is called ReSPECT (Response System for the Prevention of Emergencies, Crimes and Threats). ReSPECT adds the following values to the existing 100 emergency number and addresses many issues identified above:

-        Acts as a deterrent

o   Brightly colored wristbands are designed to be highly visible, sending a message to a potential offender that their target is connected to the ReSPECT system.

-        Widespread use and acceptability among citizens:

o   The wristbands will be available in many attractive color and fashionable designs as well as many form factors, making their use more acceptable among the citizens.

o   The wristband are GPS enabled, however, the citizen has the option to activate/deactivate the tracking. Hence, the citizen is in control of the tracking that is performed and chooses to use the device only when in vulnerable situations.

o   The private information of the citizens (such as name address, places they visit, times of movement, etc.) are kept in a highly secure encrypted database and will not be used for marketing or other commercial purposes.

-        Removal of psychological barriers:

o   The factors of embarrassment, fear and guilt do not arise since the call is handled by a non-family and non-police agent who is non-judgmental, friendly and willing to help just like a friend.

o   The stigma of having to contact the police also does not arise since the call center agent is an employee of a private company. This may also be less threatening to the citizen and hence more acceptable to use even for frequent vulnerable situations.

-        Always Available, Reliable and Easy to Use:

o   The system is designed with end-user ease of use in mind. This means, there are no complicated devices, buttons or menus items. A simple panic button that the citizen presses and gets a call back on their regular mobile phone. In addition, a smaller activate/deactivate button so that the citizen can choose when they are tracked and when they have total privacy.

o   The device will be made easy to recharge from any household outlet and if it is running low on memory, alerts can be sent to the citizen on the device or on their registered mobile number.

o   The device will have a special sensor so if the device is removed forcefully, an alert will be sent to the call center agent.

o   The system is technologically sophisticated and is design to be highly available, robust and reliable with geographically distributed call and data centers, hardened devices for the citizens and the police vehicles.

o   The wristband (citizen device) uses the GPRS/2G/3G data network to communicate with the central servers. However, if there is no GPRS/2G/3G data network available then the device will use the SMS/text messages as a backup communication mechanism. This increases the devices reliability.

o   The device will use and store GPS coordinates of the citizen when activated. If the citizen in an area where there is no GPS signal (e.g., inside a dense building) then the device will use the cellular tower based triangulation to calculate the citizen’s location.

-        Work Load Management:

o   The presence of private call center staffed with trained agents significantly reduces the work load of the police:

§  The agent makes the call, screens them, and assists the citizens; if she is not able to resolve the situation only then the nearest police vehicle is contacted.

§  If the citizen does not answer the call after pressing the panic button, the agent retries multiple times (for a set duration) and then calls the other emergency contacts before dispatching the nearest police vehicle.

Following diagram shows the basic workflow of the ReSPECT system:

We believe that our ReSPECT system will make the vulnerable citizens feel safer and empowered. By preventing the crisis that would have otherwise occurred, the system will be worth well above its value, a great asset for the nation, and a great achievement for the governments who choose to deploy it.