By Naz Dossa, CEO of Peoplesafe and BSIA Chair of the Lone Working Group
Apple has announced that its latest IOS 17 update will incorporate a new function allowing users to notify friends and family that they have arrived home safely. With approximately 1.36 billion iPhone users worldwide according to www.bankmycell.com (BMC), that’s 1.36 billion people who now have the means to let friends and family know, at a swipe, that they’ve safely returned from work, school or a late night out.
Apple – one of the world’s most influential companies – proactively acknowledging that personal safety on the streets remains an enduring issue certainly feels like something to celebrate. The new Check In feature is a step forwards if only because it’s a global shout out about this concerning issue.
Its very creation is a response to a feeling that the streets are unsafe. However, it fails to tackle the most critical issue.
What happens when someone doesn’t make it home safely?
The Apple update offers nothing revolutionary, in the sense that there are already free apps out there, offering a check in function for that journey home. The use of these free personal safety apps has been on the increase, reinforcing that the demand and desire to feel safe is growing, not diminishing. However, research published by BMC in June 2022 found that while people downloading these free apps found them useful, they also reported them as being unreliable, not working as described and/or having features that could be exploited.
Like the Apple update, they all also rely on friends and family remaining attentive to the check in and to leap into action if something goes wrong.
Whilst this kind of check-in technology offers reassurance to family and friends that their loved one has made it back home, they assume that getting home safely is the default. This is at a time when data suggests crime is at an all-time high; the Office for National Statistics reporting that 6.3m crimes were recorded in the year to March 2022. That is 4% higher than the 6.1m offences recorded in 2019-20, the previous high.
Unfortunately, an alert to friends and family isn’t enough when a personal safety incident occurs. It’s what happens after someone has raised the alarm that is crucial. And in the worst-case scenario, it can mean the difference between life and death.
Even if a location can be shared by app or function, a friend or family member can act only as a conduit with emergency services at best. The triage process of 999 calls also takes time and clear communication of accurate information is likely to be challenging when your loved one is in real danger.
In the event of an emergency, people should have the reassurance that someone with direct contact with the police can react quickly and professionally. An Alarm Receiving Centre is the best point of contact and can triage an SOS alarm in seconds and directly call for police support in minutes.
The Apple home safe feature as a technology is fine in principle but it should not foster complacency. It simply cannot provide the same reassurance and response as a professional service.
We are working with an increasing number of businesses to provide professional emergency response service and technology, after they decided to take action to protect their employees both in and out of the workplace, 24/7. For them, going beyond basic duty of care to invest in the most comprehensive safety technology that provides reassurance in and outside of working hours, is just one way to demonstrate a desire and willingness to support employee wellbeing.
All of this for a cost that amounts to less than what’s being spent on coffees.
Peoplesafe has partnered with Crimestoppers to support its mission to cut crime on the streets and in our communities. Find out more here: https://peoplesafe.co.uk/news/crimestoppers-partnership-amplifying-the-issue-of-personal-safety/