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Phone apps reach out to women in need

Phone apps reach out to women in need
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New Delhi is often tagged the “rape capital of India” due to the high number of sex crimes committed in the area. Many women have now turned to technology to try to stay safe, using apps and GPS tracking systems to add an extra layer of security while moving around the city.

Soniya Rana, uses taxis to go home from work, and she uses an application called ‘ICEALERT’, now in operation in several countries around the world.

ICE, an acronym for “In case of emergency”, sends out an SOS alert with location and text message to predefined emergency contacts. Another application allows Soniya’s family to follow her movements.

“I have already updated my father’s number. So, as soon as I board the cab, even if it is 1.00 am, he gets the update out there that I have already boarded the cab with my current location and every 15 minutes, my father, gets an update with the location details,” said Soniya Rana.

Private IT companies have launched free apps aimed at women. Telerik India’s SafeBridge is one. It has a “Help Me” button that can be pressed when a woman feels at risk. It sends out a text message, with the exact latitude and longitude, to the pre-set emergency numbers on the person’s phone.

“When you are in trouble, what you really want to do is just use this ‘Help me’ button. Then you can press send and an SMS is sent to the number that you’ve added. It’s very difficult to actually call when there is some trouble but it’s very discreet to simply press a button and send an SMS,” explained Telerik India’s Abhishek Khat.

As there are around 900 million mobile phone connections in India, many women can install free applications to protect themselves.

German companies are also looking at Smartphone apps for women, but in a completely different field. Babywatch is a system that connects a small foetal heart rate monitor and a mobile app, so pregnant women can hear and visualise their unborn baby’s heartbeat.

The connection to a smartphone combined with an app is what makes this technology innovative. That, and putting power in the hands of parents.

“Our innovation is in this, connecting it to the mobile phone and also helping women to use this kind of device through the instructions on the app. And also bringing this interactive experience to the pregnancy, enabling them to record the heartbeat and then share it with their loved ones. When you open the app you have the settings to insert your pregnancy information for purposes of due date calculating, and also adjusting the app information to your pregnancy,” said Babywatch’s Slovenian inventor Urska Srsen.

And of course sharing this special moment with other people far away is easy with social media compatibility. Those actual heartbeats can be sent in an email, or uploaded to a “data cloud”.

Susanne, who is expecting her second child, is testing the device and is impressed with it.

“At the doctor’s office you only get to hear it for 10 seconds or something. And here, you could sit for hours and play and find it when it moves. This is great for dads. I know my husband will be all over this because it is technology and there are buttons and lights and you can hear the baby and be more actively involved in it. I think for men it is hard to connect until the baby comes out, and I think he would be using this every evening,” she said.

Developers hope for a range of more purely medical uses for the device in the future, for example by doctors to remotely monitor babies’ heartbeats.