June 12, 2009

Could iPhone 2010 save your life?

If you own a cellphone that's at least 4 years old, then you might now about an option that lets you dial even when your phone is locked. Basically, that is the "emergency numbers" option. Sony Ericsson phone owners like myself are stuck with just 911 and 411, but it seems that Apple is trying to go the extra mile and stretch the concept beyond just dialing. And yes, the iPhone can do emergency calls as well. It has been this way since the first iPhone.
In an Apple patent filing, the pictures depict the iPhone with interface elements showing that there'll have to be extra steps before an emergency call can be disconnected. It is described that the user can even set a few options as to how many extra steps one has to face before actually being able to disconnect. Hell, it could even be that you can't actually end the call yourself at all and the other line will have to do the hanging up.

It sounds cumbersome, but how about we describe an emergency scenario, huh? Let's say there's a kidnapper and he's holding someone hostage. Since you're on some other side in the house where he can't see you, you dial 911 (or whatever emergency number that you define. Yes, you can define your own emergency numbers, thank God. Makes it much more practical for other parts of the world) but he catches you dialing the number and he grabs your phone and tells you to keep quiet. Since you set the option of the phone not being able to hang up the emergency phone, however, the kidnapper won't be able to stop the call and give the police enough time to give your coordinates.

Hell, in fact, the patent shows that the phone itself can send out the coordinates automatically when you send an emergency call even if you don't tell them yourself.

Why don't we approach this one with a different scenario then? You get an asthma attack, you are alone, and you whip out your phone to dial 911 because you are in fact, not at home and thus, without medication. Well, since you can't speak, you can't really say stuff about your condition. The patent describes that the emergency call will have the option to let you describe your condition through "emergency phrase buttons". What they do is that they let you choose an apt description of the situation by having a list of said situations and the computerized voice will say it.
That's actually pretty darn smart. Another "phrase button" that is being considered is an automated request that tells the 911 receiver to contact a family member or friend.

Additionally, if your iPhone is low on power, the emergency mode may also automatically make the iPhone shut down unnecessary stuff like Bluetooth (although if you're using it by way of Bluetooth headsets to make the call, I assume it won't shut down), Wi-Fi or the camera.

Will people automatically expect this feature to be in the next iteration of the iPhone in 2010? Perhaps, but patents don't usually come into fruition. Then again, Apple patented multi-touch too, but that was after they released the iPhone though. It would actually be pretty nice to have it in the next iPhone, hell, why not a firmware update in 3.0 itself?

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