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It's Time For Personal 'OnStar'-Like Security

I recently saw a story about a young child who, upon being confronted by armed robbers in his home, had the presence of mind to lock himself in a bathroom with his younger sister and call 911. Doing so likely saved the lives of everyone in the house. Because this outcome is unusual, I think it's time we looked at personal security more closely.
I recently saw a story about a young child who, upon being confronted by armed robbers in his home, had the presence of mind to lock himself in a bathroom with his younger sister and call 911. Doing so likely saved the lives of everyone in the house. Because this outcome is unusual, I think it's time we looked at personal security more closely.With GPS capabilities built into phones that can be made ever smaller, and the ability for these phones to transmit both sound and audio, isn't it time to think about a wearable device that could be used to call for help and accurately report what was happening? That would limit hoaxes and dispatchers who didn't take real crimes seriously. If properly designed, such a device could help prepare first responders for the actual emergency -- be it a heart attack or home invasion robbery. (If I had a home invasion robbery, I'd likely have a heart attack.) Cell phone technology doesn't have to be in a phone, and it is actually very inexpensive. The Kindle, for example, has prepaid-for-life WAN service. It sells for around $250, which is pretty reasonable when you realize that a data plan over a WAN service is generally thought to be prohibitively expensive. This is because the device doesn't use much bandwidth, and when it does, the cost of use is buried in the purchase price of the book or the file transferred.

In effect, the Kindle is a smartphone with limited data features, and the result is something very different. The iPad will be different in that even though it will require a data plan, that plan is relatively inexpensive.

The need for personal security remains very high. Already this year we have had a number of women killed, children killed or kidnapped, and armed robberies including home invasions. On top of that, there are ongoing heart attacks, drug overdoses, and accidents (as detailed by the OnStar ads) that highlight a need for a device and service that could be with you wherever you are and get you help when you needed it much more quickly and effectively than a traditional cell phone.

Much like you have security services to protect your home and business, I think there has always been a need for personal protection that falls below those who can afford bodyguards. Such a solution would likely have two parts: a hardware component with sensors you would wear, and a service that would connect to it that, like the security service for your home, would know who to call for help based on the alert and know where you were so it could direct first responders.

The device could contain cameras and microphones that activate if the device was triggered to create evidence that could locate an attacker and cause them to flee, an alarm sound that could help locate the victim and also help scare off an attacker, and a set of sensors that could detect everything from sudden deceleration to an irregular heartbeat or compromised breathing.

Indeed, privacy concerns need to be addressed so that stalkers and predators couldn't compromise the device. The service could have emergency medical and security technicians on staff to help talk the victim or anyone near him through the crisis while professionals were en route, and possibly even negotiate or scare attackers into ceasing their activities.

You'd wear the device 24 hours a day if you were concerned about medical problems that could happen at night. It would require an easy battery replacement and out-of-device charging solution or broadcast power charging, and it would need to be both subtle and attractive or folks wouldn't wear it.

I think events of this year suggest we have both the need and the technology for a personal OnStar-like personal security device and service. I think a lot of folks would pay for it for their children or aging parents if it cost less $300 for the device and $30 a month for the service -- and as long as it was dependable.

This last requirement is far from trivial. However the technology exists, we are just waiting for the vendor to build a solution that will make the best use of it.

-- Rob Enderle is president and founder of Enderle Group. Special to Dark Reading.

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