Technologically being prepared: digital apps for self-defence
Technology has moved forward by leaps and bounds, and a number of gadgets and software apps are available to protect oneself, though the danger of misuse is also on the rise.
With attacks and crime, especially against women, going up by the day, it would not be out of place to adopt the motto "be prepared". Technology has moved forward by leaps and bounds, and a number of gadgets and software apps are available to protect oneself, though the danger of misuse is also on the rise. The recent use of the pepper spray in Parliament, of course, is a case in point of how not to use a self-defence product.
Let us look at some digital apps for self-defence.
Most modern-day cellphones have 3G and GPS built-in. They also have a location service to track your handset. The Apple ecosystem calls it "Find my iPhone", with which you can locate your handset on icloud.com. The information may not be updated in real time, but updates will tell where the person carrying the phone is.
There is a similar Android Device Manager for Android-based phones, "Find My Phone" for Windows handsets and BlackBerry Protect for BlackBerry OS 10 handsets.
Though primarily designed to locate a lost cellphone and delete its contents or lock the device, these utilities can also help track the owner's location as well. Remember, though, that the service will require that GPS location services on the phone be switched on, and 3G data services to be enabled. In case 3G service is spotty, the data will stop updating on the server. Also be careful while using the app, so that you do not end up deleting the phone's contents by mistake!
Locate your family
The native location services on Android, iPhone, Windows etc will let you locate only one person. What if you want to locate all your family members at one go? A free service from Map My India, (http://locate.mapmyindia.com) lets you do just that. Download their free app on iPhone, Android or Windows (alternately you can open the URL in the browser). Based on a check-in feature, the app tells you where your family members are, and who among them is monitoring your location. The only problem is that the person has to manually check into places, which can be improved, and you need to have given permission, in the form of their email ids, to let your family 'follow' you.
Personal alarms (₹ 500 onwards)
The cheapest and among the most effective alternatives available, the security gadgets market and local markets are full of these. Sadly, this is still an unorganised trade, so we cannot recommend any specific brand, but personal alarms let off a loud wail, like a siren, at the press of a button, drawing attention of the public. It is like raising a hue and cry. Most of them cannot be turned off if one does not know how the trick switch works.
Channel V and Star TV have been advertising their App called VithU, available both for Android and for iOS. The App disguises itself as a safety app, and has Twitter feeds and alerts for a programme called Gumrah. But if you take it beyond that, the app is really helpful. All you do is set up a list of guardians, inform them via SMS that you will be using the App, and activate it. Now in case of an emergency you press the Panic button, which counts down to 5 and sends an SMS to your guardians. It keeps doing this every 2 minutes, though we faced some issues using the app.
Also for your family to get to know where you are, and they need to call a Mumbai number, which is not the most friendly way of doing things.
There are other applications such as SOS-SMS available on Android, Send Help on iOS, and One Touch SOS (paid) for Windows phones, that let you do the same thing. They SMS all your contacts with your location so that they can track where you are/were, and send help.
Spot Satellite GPS messenger (starts @$99.99 or ₹ 6,100)
Primarily designed as a safety device for adventure enthusiasts, Spot devices rate at the top for us when it comes to safety alerting. As small devices that use GPS satellites to send messages, and hence always in a service coverage area as long as you are outdoors, Spot's devices don't need 3G or 2G data plans. Just press a button, and a custom message is sent to your friends and family. Your friends and family can do basic tracking of where you are, and some models also allow enhanced tracking that updates every 2.5 minutes with your location.
Spot devices use satellite communication and hence need a licence from the government. There is also an annual subscription of $49.99. It will work regardless of whether you are on top of the Everest, or driving in Bhutan (where there is no cellphone service): the press of a button lets your family know you are ok (http://www.findmespot.com/).