Your phone is a powerful gadget, and can do all sorts of things, but the NSW Police could end up using it for something else: finding people.
Mobiles in New South Wales (Australia) could soon be used as a means of helping the police find high-risk individuals, thanks to the support of a new technology that’s been worked on with telcos.
Those considered high risk might be children who have gone missing or older individuals with dementia who have wandered from their homes, with an idea by the NSW Police essentially being used to harness the power of the crowd and allow the community to help find individuals.
The idea is simple, with phones of the general population being used in specific areas, targeting them with messages to let the general public help police find missing people. It means that if someone has gone missing in a certain area, and you’re in that area, you may receive an SMS with information from the police, as well as with messaging on how to report a sighting.
It means that instead of waiting for a news update on TV or radio on how to help the police, if you’re in the area, you’ll receive a text message instead. It doesn’t matter what telco you use, either, because much like how radios can pick up a message when they enter a tunnel, phones in the right geographic area will pick up on the relevant message, as well.
To make this happen, the NSW Police Force has worked with Australian telcos — Telstra, Optus, and TPG (Vodafone) — on a technology that uses geographic coordinates to target phones in a certain area, and essentially allow them to receive emergency messages as part of an alert system. Information about missing individuals would be the emergency alerts in this, and essentially gives members of the community a chance to play a pivotal part in locating individuals.
“When this tool is used, a brief message can be sent out to all mobile devices within a defined area. The message can include a brief description of the missing person, as well as details of how to report a sighting,” said Detective Chief Superintendent Darren Bennett, Director of NSW’s State Crime Command.
“This system is currently used by states and territories to send out alerts within specific areas in the event of likely emergency situations, such as flood, bush fire or other extreme weather conditions,” he said. “It is our hope, that with the introduction of the new geo-targeting tool, that we are able to reduce this number even further.”
The technology forms a part of the Missing Persons Registry (MPR), and may mean that the power of the community can help assist in getting missing people found more efficiently.
“We’re thrilled to be assisting the NSW Police Force Missing Persons Registry with the ability to notify the community in critical missing persons cases and hope it will help our first responders make some happy reunions,” said John Ieraci, Chief Customer Officer for Telstra Enterprise.