A technology based security idea for Delhi


Would it be possible to create some kind of network of wifi receptors all over the city? Or use an existing network (Tikona, for example) to scan for distress signals from phones or other devices? The range of a wifi being relatively small, it shouldn’t be too complicated to mark a fairly accurate area to dispatch cops.

This is the hardware.

The software will be on multiple levels.

On the user’s end, it can be a simple phone application. Or it can be an alarm installed in a building or it can be sent from a laptop or other computer. When an alarm is triggered, basic information on location if any from the device GPS, phone number and the call for help should be broadcast from wireless, as well as SMS. It should continue to broadcast periodically on wireless as well as send SMS if any information changes (location, phone number, whatever). The phone must automatically start recording audio and switch to silent mode.

The application in all its forms should have the ability to pick a distress signal and communicate information to the police – or, in the absence of both phone and internet connectivity, bounce the signal further and enhance its reach. It should relay any return signal back as well in a similar manner. In this manner, all available wifi enabled phones could be used to support the police network.

On the police end, receiving a signal should result in the police network being informed and dispatched as per their protocols – treating it like a phone call to the police line with address information attached. The operator must attempt to call and confirm the emergency. This call May or may not be picked by the person depending on circumstances.

Police vans must have wifi capabilities of smaller range, to be able to further narrow down the location.

Such a solution should not be too difficult to design. Wifi capabilities exist as well as mesh networking research. This will not need anything major. In fact, the more primitive, the less open to exploitation.

Such a system also has fewer chances of misuse, as it will be designed to transmit all possible personally identifying and locating information. This would be scalable as well as reproducible in other parts of India.

Basic networks once established could aid in all kinds of things.

Will refine the idea as needed, but what do you think? Good idea?

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19 thoughts on “A technology based security idea for Delhi”

  1. pkumar80@gmail.com

    I conceptually agree with some of the ideas above, however as with any other system there are potential issues – 1. dedication to implement 2. technical aspects of the police or PCR guys – many of them have basic education if any and even less technical abilities ; 3. who secures the wi-fi devices or routers in a public place in a country where even bulbs are broken or vandalized or equipment stolen.

    On the other hand i am thinking on using technology as a preventive measure – specifically to reduce recurring offenders or repeat offenders. While one alternative is to have a sex offenders list with weekly haarzi in the police station, one option is to have permanent anklets with GPS capability put on repeat offenders who are either out on bail/parole, or police and judiciary see as a threat to women and are at risk for offenses. this should be complimented by “receiver” devices, especially in women-dominated areas – colleges, markets, bus stops, etc. and the device would beep/shril whenever an offender is in vicinity of these receivers.

    This would help with:

    1. Giving others an opportunity to be careful when such a person is around
    2. restricing potential repeat offenders from such places thereby reducing the opportunity to commit a crime.
    3. Name and shame practically implemented.

  2. Vidyut,

    Your blog is a good start because it enables meaningful discussion.

    I have read some the discussion following your post which mentioned GPS signal for location etc. Good ideas except that they kill battery life (if they are running all the time) and many users turn off location services. Other discussion includes ‘the involvement of The Attacked’ to contact Police. There is a good chance that ‘The Attacked’ is under shock and might not be in a position to contact Police immediately.

    Now, to the idea.

    I gave this a thought (and did some basic research) after Guwahati incident few months back. The fundamental idea is to have an application on phone (Symbian/Android/iOS).

    The first sound people (when in distress) make is ‘help me’ or ‘save me’ in their own local language or Hindi or English. The key is to detect these sounds and send a call/SMS to Police.

    How can this be done?

    Microphones respond to inputs, hence are passive (you can also have active ones which ‘look for’ signal all the time => more power). The idea is to detect the above mentioned distress signals, process them and make a call to Police.

    *Disadvantage of call*

    ‘The attacked’ has to talk to them.

    This is where SMS helps. SMS can be sent to Police (and a special hotline number that can be monitored through web) and ‘The Attacked’s close group of friends (which is configured when the app is installed).

    There are several other technical/logistical issues to be dealt with this type of implementation which needs more thought.

    I’m working with the folks, starting Jan 2013 (hopefully), at my undergraduate college to get this done.

    Any feedback is most welcome.

  3. GSM phones can transmit location as well. You just need a basic app which will transmit that information. Even today, most of the apps on any phone costing approximately above 3k rupees is capable of noting and transmitting your location within 500m range in city. Just need to create a simple distress app. Which will transmit the location and distress signal to police control room which can easily direct nearest cops to the location. It won’t require huge hardware as such. Software is pretty simple too.

  4. See that is what I am saying, if the phone does not have GPS then wi-fi hot-spot and phone tower location give equally granular location info. I haven’t used a public wi-fi till date, but maybe you are saying wi-fi range is limited than a telephone tower, so it is more granular. Perhaps that may be the case, but I don’t know much about this. But as opposed to a closer pinpointing offered (supposedly, as I am not sure) by wi-fi, a lot less area is covered by present day wi-fi network. On its own it may not proliferate like mushrooms so soon in near future. That is because public wi-fi’s are usually (understood to be) free, while cost of mobile networks is paid by subscribers. Much additional wi-fi infrastructure investment just for this cause, doesn’t seem so feasible. Whereas mobile network is there not only in major cities and towns, but also many remote areas (though of course, not all).

    That was about ‘feasibility’. Now, let me try to explain the ‘possibilities’ again, hopefully with greater clarity.

    In olden days, telephone networks were analog, and could carry only voice calls. Today all mobile network technologies have a dedicated channel for digital data, if at all they are not entirely digital. (I may be forgetting my decade old engineering theories, but I think GSM had analog voice channels while in CDMA it was entirely digitally coded. Things may have moved more towards digital since then). That is precisely why you get the information of the number that is calling you, in real time. That is digital info.

    Now, in a cellular network, your mobile keeps sending signals that it needs to talk. The mobile switching centre, automatically monitors which tower is best able to serve your mobile, based on available empty bands (not being used for other calls) and range, and asks the mobile to switch to that tower (by telling it which frequencies to use). And similarly it tells that tower to start using that frequency to talk to that mobile.

    This information, I believe can be sent to through the digital data channel (which sends you the caller id) in real time, to the police. Police need not wait. It should just need code changes in mobile network central equipment, to send this information of the caller, whenever the call is to some special numbers (police, rape helpline, whatever). I am not an expert authority on mobile network equipment, but hardly anything is hardwired these days. So code change in some software/middleware should do it without needing to change the hardware equipment.

    For phones with GPS, perhaps that data too can be relayed from mobile using the same digital channel I am talking about.

    Perhaps we don’t need a whole new devices, whole new network infrastructure, when existing thing can be neatly repurposed.

  5. I don’t think rapists would care to be so much tech savvy to rape. Also what is the point of a fake police response? Itni mehnat se to koi ladki patane mein kam mehnat lagegi. Ok just kidding 🙂

    I am not sure what you mean by emphasis on wireless signal. Wi-fi is just a local signal field, that finally goes to a hard wired internet connection linked to the wi-fi transmitter. Usual mobile phone connection is also like that. Your mobile communuicates with a tower nearby, which is then connected to mail mobile switching centres through physical cables.

    And thinking along these lines, I just have an idea which may be simpler and easier to implement in a more widespread manner.

    Instead of creating a special app for devices, and needing separate wi-fi or special networks for the ‘alert device’, we could have a special rape hotline special number like the usual 100 for police.

    Then we can just have that number on speed dial (and maybe make mobile device makers to allow that number to be dialed even when device is locked). When the call goes through, police can automatically hear the sounds at the scene. (like ploy used in some movies) In case of a fake alert, the person who dialed can speak and assure them. Operation does not have to try to call back to confirm, like in the original scheme. Maybe we can have devices automatically recording each such call for later use.

    That leaves one problem, of location. But then, at any given point in time, mobile companies know which tower a given mobile is communicating with and hence know its general location (like you said for wi-fi). But usually this request is shared with police only for investigative purposes, as far as I know (But then some say that in some western countries such surveillance is on 24×7 and mobile companies are paid by police. Not sure about India). We can make provision to send this info automatically whenever a call goes to the special rape hotline number.

    And just like the 100 call is supposed to go to the police station in vicinity, this will be set up that way too.

    This is almost like the original post’s idea, but doesn’t need special apps, wi-fi locations or phones with GPS*, doesn’t need operator call-back (in-built). It just uses the existing mobile tower network. But then you mentioned SMSes, which also use the same.

    *Though of course if phone has GPS, we can transmit that information too. GSM and CDMA networks can transmit voice as well as data. Might need some additional set-up than a usual phone call.

    1. The main problem with all solutions using existing phones is that police will need fairly frequent access to locate all calls – or location information may be missing. In other words, your cops have nothing to do till they get location from towers. This kind of free access may have all kinds of privacy implications in an already nosy state.

      A possibility may be to direct telecoms to add location info automatically to all calls to the cops. This need not necessarily be limited to rape helplines.

      On the whole, police owning the locating equipment and having complete access is one point of failure less – even if it may mean slight headaches while setting up.

      1. Actually, all phones today are capable of gathering and transmitting location within approx 500m range in cities. This feature is used by many apps regularly. All that needs to be done is build a distress app. When the user uses the distress signal, it will gather the location and send that information to the police control room. They can easily direct nearest cop to the location. Only a new app and a receiving system at the police control room needs to be developed separately for this.

  6. I think a simpler way would be to simply have a emergency dial services similar to ‘112’ or ‘119’. If you have a phone with a keypad (not touch), you’ll notice that you can dial 112 even without unlocking the phone, i.e. without looking at the phone, just by touch.
    Just dialing this no. should start a trace and an immediate call back to the no. similar to a 911 call. If it was a dialing mistake / false alert you inform the operative by giving your details (all telecom companies have your basic auth. details)..if you do not answer / someone else answers/ give wrong details deliberately the operator passes it on as a distress call to the closest PCR van.Nowadays a cell tower triangulation trace is effective enough to get your location pretty accurately. Even if your phone’s thrown away, your last position will be known ..just that the police reaction time should be fast..Improving police reaction time here is critical…
    I suggest this over the wifi idea because:
    1) Wifi coverage is not complete and range is limited. ( each phone can reach out to max 30 mts) Plus obstacles (closed vehicles et al. reduce this range further)
    2)Not all handsets have wifi built in..basic ones do not, but you can dial emergency nos from all phones
    3) This is simpler to set up
    4) Wifi drains out battery on phones fast.. hence many ppl turn it off..you’ll never know when you’ll need it
    5) Fake alerts/mistaken alerts can be immediately checked..

  7. There’s an app called Circle of 6 for Android and iPhone that broadcasts a person’s location to 6 of their closest friend’s at the click of a button, letting friend’s know the sender is in trouble. I suggested it to a few of my friends and think the app deserves more exposure. Link here – http://www.circleof6app.com/

  8. This is indeed a good idea in basic concept. The problem may lie in activating the distress signal though.First it would not be very feasible to take out the phone and activate the signal. If we keep the signal activation mechanism very simple, there may be lot of accidental false alerts and police will get jaded towards it (Assuming they are initially very responsive) and if we keep the signal activation mechanism complex, hard to activate it quickly in emergency (if at all possible). And if attacker notices the person fiddling with the phone, it might be broken or thrown away, making it difficult to contact anyone even after the ordeal is over.

    In short, how do we design a feasible way of quick alerting without drawing too much attention of attacker, while avoiding lot of false alerts?

    1. I think, a simple sequence of keys that can be pressed blindly – but not accidentally, would do the trick. For example, the two bottom keys * and # followed by… volume up and volume down (on the side of the phone)… or any other programmable sequence that the person feels able to use without visual feedback. Something like this could be activated by simply slipping hand in pocket or purse – possibly at the first sign of alarm, before an attack actually happens?

      One downside though is that it *could* be traced/hacked by tech savvy criminals. For example, faking a police response, or disabling alert, or signalling that it has been transmitted without doing anything, etc. At least it may be possible to detect the activation of a wireless signal?

      Possibly using a primitive method – like disabling alarm or dismissing case needing physical police presence or solid enough encryption that while disinformation can be added, the original message cannot be intercepted?

  9. I would like to add:
    If the police did the right thing by not doing anything, why were 800 policemen deployed at this location? Were they told that this is an entertainment program for policemen that they should just come and watch? There is a reason why there are so many policemen deployed at ANY rally regardless of religion or political lineage: to control the crowds. CP Patnaik did not let the officers control the crowds and insulted them in the process. What was the entire purpose of the charade?
    The crowds should have been let alone without a single officer deployed there. At least 45 policemen would have been safer.
    The next best thing to adequate action would have been not deploying a single policeman there. Whatever happened was shameful. The crux is this: the policemen were deployed because the home ministry would have been blamed otherwise for inaction but they were made sitting ducks for other political reasons.

  10. So very true. Need of the hour is consistent and firm implementation of the law – with no regard to any denomination of the oppressor or the oppressed. We need Religion, caste, Gender (and what ever other divisive factors are) agnostic laws, along with consistent and firm execution…
    You are very right in saying today that the violent are listened too and become the representative picture..

  11. I guess I agree with your article’s major points. Law must be upheld, and those apprehended should be treated as perpetrators of whatever wrong they did, not as representatives of any religion or any other kind of broader group.The only major part of the linked article I agree with is, it was good that most people left peacefully through other end of the maidan, because of which police could deal with violent mob better. If that was due to some sense showed by Patnaik, some credit goes to him. But if he didn’t permit the police to act against even the violent mobs, and was enraged at legit arrests, he more than nullified it.

  12. Both Teesta and Javed Anand have amplified an intent, inherent to their religious beliefs, and what is expected of the relevant machinery to conduct themselves in the event of repeated Azad Maidans! In short, the conduct of the Police Commissioner, a forefront candidate for the next Padma Shri award for his brave and balanced act in Azad Maidan, is supposedly reckoned to be the measure by which Police should react to a Muslim Riot! God save India (that is if he can). Otherwise yes, the Muslims can by all means provided we all convert in kind and deed.

    Anyway, thanks for brilliantly undressing the likes of Teesta and Javed Anand.

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