This is either the most outrageous example of ‘NIH’ (not invented here), willful ignorance or sheer howling incompetence by the Indian Government in the face of frequent personal assaults often leading to death. The Wall Street Journal India just revealed, in the blandest possible terms, that the Indian Government’s ‘department of electronic innovations’ will be working on plans to develop a prototype wristwatch by mid-year that can, when the wearer pushes the panic button 1) send a text message to police and family members, 2) has a GPS to send location and 3) shoots 30 minutes of video–for US$20-$50. As our readers will remember, an attack on a young couple in central Delhi in December, and her subsequent death from beating and rape, made international headlines in December, initiated mass protests and revealed police incompetence in fighting and prosecuting crime.
Needless to say that what immediately came to Editor Donna’s mind was that there are already several devices on the market that do precisely that for the alert functions; the two top-of-minds were Aerotel’s GeoSkeeper and Lok8U’s Freedom but this Editor is sure our readers can identify others. All the state-run telecom, ITI, need do is adopt or license the technology and market it at a low affordable price perhaps subsidized by said Government. Cheaper, better, faster.
A panic button will not save the vulnerable from attack. Any device may be ineffective in a remote area, where the police are distant or not responsive and if the wristwatch is torn off. Encouraging women to take courses in situational awareness and personal self-defense–including the proper use of self-defense weaponry such as tasers, pepper spray (Mace) or even low-load pistols–would be a lot more effective as a first line. Better policing and law enforcement would also be strong deterrents. This ‘watch’ idea is a decent tool and a backup especially for those who cannot carry said defense, and better than nothing in discouraging assaults. And video is not needed–so after the fact, hardly a deterrent and perhaps even a further incentive for a criminal to badly maim or kill a victim.
So why is the Indian Government taking its sweet time in developing, then providing, an alert and video wristwatch to mitigate crime, when ‘off the shelf’ alert versions are readily available? Is it merely a bone thrown to the protestors? Certainly those who have been victims, or are close to someone who has been, will grimace consuming this serving of oatmeal. A Wrist-Worn Answer to Sexual Attack? (Wall Street Journal IndiaRealTime) A hat tip to Toni Bunting, TANN Ireland.
Update 4 Feb: Here’s a combination that in a right-side world might seize the imagination of the Indian Government: pepper spray, blinding light, quick photo that is then sent via Android smartphone to authorities. Stop/divert attack, get evidence and send to the police. Devised by three students from Cornell University for their ‘Design for Microcontrollers’ course, it may be far from finished work but even starting at this point, the turnaround to a workable, inexpensive defense/notification tool might be far shorter than the magic watch, and do more. Article (The Next Web) and the students’ project PDF. Another tip o’ hat to Toni Bunting.