Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Mobile Phone Alarm 'dangerous'

Mobile Phone Alarm 'dangerous'

I read an interesting news article reported by kvue.com about a woman in the East Austin area of the US who found that when she dialled "911" on her mobile telephone it had an audible alarm that activated. In itself the alarm noise was not excessively loud and it may not be a problem for those who have a disability and need confirmation that "911" has been successfull dialled. It could be danagerous though in other situations the user may find themself that may require discretion. Siutations like hostage, burglary, hijack or reporting a crime in progress...these and other scenarios may alert assailant/s to the user attempting to contact the emergency services.

The mobile telephone kvue.com refers to in this case is a Cazio G'ZOne phone from US mobile operator Verizon Wireless. The question is why was such a feature incorporated into the mobile telephone? kvue.com reported Verizon Wireless as saying “The tone our customer experienced is our interpretation of Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act calling for a provider of telecommunications service to offer service that is accessible and usable by individuals with disabilities. The tone, indicating that 911 has been dialed, is one of several features designed to make wireless service is accessible and easy to use, especially for those with disabilities...."

The FCC were reported as saying that Section 255 of the Telecommunications Code requires that phones let a caller know a 911 call is underway, but does not require an audible alarm, according to kvue.com. A spokesman for the FCC also said “The Commission has not implemented any rules pursuant to Section 255 that would require the use of any tones concerning 911 calls,”

The news article got me thinking why the alarm was necessary, if at all? Most mobile telephones have set as default an audible tone that the user can hear when dialling a number. If hearing is a user disability then 1) why does the user have a mobile telephone in the first place (unless for texting etc) and 2) numbers dialled appear on the screen of the mobile telephone, anyway. That is apart from the fact that some mobiles have an ICON the user can select to call the emergency services. Additionally, for those with impaired sight, it has been a feature of "key 5" on telephones and mobile telephones for at least two decades that a small nipple rises from "key 5" which can be detected by touch for the visually impaired. Once "key 5" is depressed for a period of seconds the phone automatically dials 999/911 (whichever is relevant) and hence why it has been termed the 'emergency key'. So the audible alarm approach looks more gimmicky than of benefit to the user.

Whatever reasoning was behind the intention to use an audible alarm, the fact that it cannot be decommissioned may well impact on consumer appeal to have such a handset. If, by accident, 911 is accidently pressed and the audible alarm goes off in the cinema or on the train it may actually aggravate an assailant into shutting the "thing" up - which is the danager the user seeks to avoid.


No comments: