Monday, March 17, 2008

Personal Safety & Security System


Personal safety and security is a primary concern for many individuals worldwide. There are many medical emergencies that occur under circumstances where, had the emergency staff been alerted sooner or been adequately equipped with information necessary to deal with the situation, the patient may have survived.

The following presentation deals with a personal safety and security system that utilizes external medical monitors to alert relevant third parties in the event of an emergency. This system allows information about an individual’s medical wellbeing and personal safety to be remotely assessed by professional staff during an emergency. The system relies on four categories of data, which, when examined together, can help give a clear account of an individual’s current situation.

1. Physiological Data

Small, portable and non-invasive medical sensors can be placed on various parts of an individual’s body. These sensors can monitor physiological signals such as heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, blood oxygen saturation, perspiration rate and composition, and movement. When needed, this information can be wirelessly transmitted to external devices. This allows an individual’s medical wellbeing to be digitally monitored at all times.

2. Geographical Position

There are a multitude of global positioning technologies available for consumer use, each with their own pros and cons. A combination of technologies can be used to give the receiving device the most accurate geographical position under any conditions. Below I compare two of the more popular versions.

Ø GPS – Using a satellite based positioning system, GPS can determine a receiver’s position accurate to within 3 metres. GPS does, however, have difficulty providing a reliable position in environments surrounded by tall buildings, as well as indoors and under heavy tree cover. When available, Assisted GPS (A-GPS) addresses these issues by using Assistance Servers to calculate the receiver’s position. GPS is conducive to privacy concerns in that the device’s geographical coordinates are only shared during an emergency or when requested by the user. Unfortunately, GPS cannot be relied upon in covered areas where A-GPS support is unavailable.

Ø GSM – A mobile phone’s geographical position can be calculated using the phone’s distance from multiple base stations. GSM Localization is radically improving and can locate a mobile phone’s position relatively accurately and quickly in both open and covered areas. Disadvantages of GSM localisation are that it requires adequate network coverage to establish a device’s geographical position and that it is reliant on network providers which may require payment or a subscription to location based advertising. Due to the prevalence of cellular technology today, it is likely that an individual will already have the technology required for radiolocation in his or her possession.

3. Audio Visual Data

Data from wearable microphones and cameras or from external sources such as CCTV cameras and witnesses can be transmitted to emergency personnel.

4. Personal Information

The more personal and medical information about an individual the emergency personnel have, the better they can respond to and cater for that person's needs. A semantic medical profile is setup by the user or their personal physician, using the system software. The level of detail which is viewable to third parties is entirely up to the user. The profile can contain details such as colour ID photo, name, age, sex, race, languages spoken, occupation, ID number, residential address, work address, contact details, next of kin, blood type, chronic illnesses and disorders, current medications, allergies, full medical history, medical aid details, and physician contact details.

This system requires a standard Bluetooth enabled smart phone with internet browsing capabilities to work correctly. GPS phones are recommended.

Medical Wristwatch

The design of the Medical Wristwatch incorporates technology used in the Exmocare healthcare system. Exmocare provides a service to the elderly through which caretakers can remotely monitor a patient’s medical wellbeing and respond when potential issues arise. The medical sensors are accurate enough to denote one’s emotions. Below, I list the features of the Medical Wristwatch.

Physiological Monitors
The Medical Wristwatch is equipped with infrared LEDs which emit infrared beams that bounce back against the skin surface while the reflected light is measured. These measures are used to detect features such as heart rate (HR), heart rate variability (HRV), vascular dilations, and vasoconstrictions. Similar to measures of an electrocardiogram (ECG), this data is a strong indicator of the individual’s physical and emotional state.

Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) is used to measure the electrical resistance of the skin which is indicative of the level of perspiration on the skin. This datum is another valuable measure of the individual’s physical and emotional state.

A built-in accelerometer measures the relative movement of the individual, giving an indication of their level of activity. This provides a better context in which to examine other physiological parameters.

Global Positioning System
The wristwatch is fitted with a GPS Receiver and can receive A-GPS data if available. This allows the geographical position of the watch wearer to be known in the event of an emergency.

Wibree allows the wristwatch to wirelessly communicate with other devices but uses far less power and is more efficient than Bluetooth, allowing it to be incorporated into smaller devices. Wibree is designed to work with and compliment Bluetooth devices.

A highly sensitive microphone records auditory details of the individual’s immediate environment.

Mobile Communication
When not in the presence of a mobile phone or home PC, the wristwatch can still wirelessly transmit data to external sources. GSM localisation can be used to establish the individual’s geographical position.

LCD Screen
The wristwatch is equipped with a 1.5 inch LCD display. Instead of acting as a stand-alone PDA wristwatch, the Medical Wristwatch works as a quick access point to one’s mobile phone. Data is sent wirelessly between the wristwatch and mobile phone, allowing the user to remotely access and utilise applications on the mobile phone via the wristwatch. As well as displaying the date and time, the wristwatch displays items such as physiological data, alert notifications, compass, and various types of media stored on the phone.

Medical Emergency

Under normal conditions the wristwatch continuously records and monitors the user’s physiological data. Every half hour, this data is transmitted to the user’s mobile phone where it is stored for analysis. The wristwatch is also constantly recording audio of the user’s immediate environment which is stored for 2 minutes and thereafter deleted. If a significant irregularity or change in heart rate is registered by the wristwatch, the physiological data is immediately transmitted to the user’s mobile phone. The wristwatch will continue to do so unless otherwise instructed. This data is then cross-referenced with an onboard database or sent anonymously to an online Data Centre for analysis. If the physiological data correlates with an acceptable pattern such as that for exercise, then the wristwatch is notified to return to normal operations until another significant change or irregularity has been registered.

If, however, the physiological data correlates with an alarming pattern such as that for the onset of shock, the data is then sent from the mobile phone to an Emergency Centre in the vicinity. Meanwhile both the mobile phone and wristwatch are calculating the user’s geographical position, which when established, will be continuously transmitted to the Emergency Centre along with the other data. An alert notification is also sent to the wristwatch and mobile phone. At any point, the user can deactivate the alert by entering a password on his or her mobile phone.

Emergency Interface

Below is an example of an interface used by an Emergency Operator. This interface utilizes modules that are overlaid on a map. These modules present relevant data according to designated categories. Ideally, this type of interface would work best if displayed on two screens, one displaying all information pertaining to logistics and the rest of the data on the other. But for the purpose of this presentation all the information is presented on one screen.

Both the information displayed and the manner in which it is displayed can be tailored to suit the needs of the individual receiving the information such as a doctor or paramedic.

1) Map

Relevant geographical points are displayed in “real time” on a map by means of designated icons.

2) Current Status

The victim’s current physiological signals are presented in “real-time” on this module. The operator’s first task is to contact the victim in order to verify the emergency. This is done by simply clicking the Call icon on the module which will direct a call to the victim or any other relevant persons such as his or her personal physician. The operator can also control the audio volume of the wristwatch’s microphone from here.

3) Victim Details

Vital information such as a victim’s name, gender, age, and languages spoken are constantly displayed. From this module, full details of the victim’s medical profile can be accessed. These details can be helpful when remotely assessing the victim’s condition.

4) Review & Comparison

This module charts the physiological signals and other data over time. This enables the Emergency Operator and other relevant parties to review and compare the data at various stages of the incident.

5) CCTV Footage & Witness Data

If available, live footage from street cameras and other CCTV cameras near the scene of an emergency can be accessed by Emergency Operators. As with the America’s E911 service, when a person places a call via mobile phone or landline, their geographical position is obtained using GPS, GSM or an Automatic Location Identification database. The geographical coordinates are used to assign the call to the correct Emergency Operator. In addition to being able to make emergency calls, witnesses can upload pictures or videos of the emergency scene using their mobile phones. This data can prove valuable when remotely assessing the nature and severity of an emergency. This data is accessed by clicking on one of the entries listed on the module.

6) Ambulance

Tablet PCs are mounted in both compartments of the ambulance. These would be wirelessly linked to the Emergency Centre network and display interfaces specifically tailored for paramedics. Lightweight headgear consisting of a microphone, earphone, camera, headlight, and wireless device is worn by the paramedics, allowing them to be in constant contact with the Emergency Operator and other medical personnel. Full details of the ambulance and the paramedics onboard can be accessed by clicking the Details icon.

7) Request Assistance

Other emergency units or departments can be requested to assist. For example, police units can help provide logistical support or secure the scene of an accident.

8) Hospital Operations

The interface allows the emergency operator to search for and coordinate all hospital processes including assigning and preparing operating theatres, medical personnel, facilities, and post-theatre accommodation prior to the victim’s arrival. This would most likely be done after the ambulance has arrived at the scene of a medical emergency. Hospital networks will be interconnected, so as to ensure that, in the event that a particular medical centre does not have the required facilities, the ambulance can transport the victim from the emergency scene to another nearby hospital with the required facilities. The victim’s medical profile is semantically incorporated into the Hospital Operating System, allowing the hospital to automatically register and cater for a particular patient.

9) Operational Review / live report

During the emergency, all information is automatically and semantically documented. This allows all details pertaining to the incident to be easily accessed and reviewed at a later stage.

Not only would this system be invaluable to health risk patients such as the elderly and chronically ill, but would also be of use to an average individual. Specialised monitors, such as those used for diabetes, can be incorporated into this system. This system can be used in conjunction with other programs like those used for exercise and diet and can provide other features, such as medication management, online healthcare and support services.

User’s can namelessly provide their medical and physiological data to a world health statistics organisation. This data can then be made freely available to provide a research tool that allows analysis of data on both a macro and micro scale, while providing the contributor with complete anonymity.

Security Emergency

The wristwatch can act as a mobile panic button, for on-the-go personal security. When physically threatened, a user can send a security alert to either the police or to a private security company. This is done by pressing down on both directional buttons simultaneously or when the wristwatch registers extreme emotional distress.

An alert notification has to be sent to the user but it is important not to startle a potentially armed perpetrator. During an alert, both the wristwatch and phone will silently vibrate for no longer than 3 seconds in order to notify the user.

If the user has accidentally sent out a security alert, he or she can enter a password on his or her mobile phone to deactivate it. It is possible that the perpetrator may force the victim to deactivate the security alert. For this reason, when an incorrect password is entered, the watch and mobile phone will display “Password Accepted” but display symbols selected during installation and known only to the user that indicate that the alert is still active.

Security Interface

Similar to the previous interface, the Security Interface allows an Emergency Operator to tactically coordinate armed response units and accurately gather information pertaining to an emergency.

1) Current Status

As well as displaying physiological signals, this module also displays the victim’s emotional status (a fundamental datum during a security emergency). Under these circumstances, the audio of the victim’s immediate environment plays a far more crucial role. For example, if a victim were to say “please, don’t shoot”, this would indicate that the perpetrator is potentially armed and dangerous.

2) Request Assistance

In the unfortunate event of an individual being critically injured (i.e. being shot), the police can immediately request medical support from the nearest medical centre. Other departments whose assistance can be requested include the Fire Department, Emergency Rescue, and specialised police units such as tactical assault, coast guard and air support.

3) CCTV Footage & Witness Data

Audio visual data plays an important role in crime prevention. As well as being used to remotely asses the nature and severity of a crime, it can help identify the perpetrator and be submitted as evidence for prosecution.

Violent crimes such as murder, rape, kidnapping, armed robbery and assault occur on a regular basis in many countries worldwide. A system such as this could help dramatically reduce the levels of violent crime on a global scale by deterring criminals from committing such offences. If such a crime is committed, it is far more likely that the culprit will be apprehended and prosecuted, as a result of the additional information provided. This system can easily integrate with existing security systems such as those used for home and vehicle security.


A personal safety and security system of this nature has the potential to save many lives and help improve the quality of emergency services. It is my belief that the technology which would be required to develop this system, already exists. The detailed recording and documenting of information promotes efficiency which is not compromised by human error. The failure on the part of individuals to accurately record and document information is prevented by the attention to detail that a system such as this can provide.

There are many ethical considerations, with privacy being a key issue that should be taken into account when implementing such a system. With the existence of corrupt police forces and oppressive governments, concerns about who would be in possession of this sensitive and confidential information arise. Many of these concerns can be curtailed through effective measures being taken to implement ethical considerations. This system will ensure the user is in full control of both the information that is sent out and the manner in which it is transmitted.

In order to work effectively and efficiently, this system requires open lines of communication to be established between all emergency service departments, whether private or public. It is likely that such a system would be more easily adopted by private security and healthcare organisations than it would by their government counterparts.

This type of system could prove to be particularly important to South African citizens. The revelation that South Africa has one of the highest rates of assaults, rapes, and murders with firearms per capita (, and that more is spent annually on private security than that which is allocated for the South African police budget, leads one to conclude that the implementation of such a system in a country like South Africa would not only be ideal but vitally important.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this presentation and I look forward to any feedback you have to offer. I do not profess to have a professional understanding of any aspect of the medical and security industries and this should be taken into account when considering this presentation. The purpose hereof is to provide an idea of how such a system would operate and to highlight key aspects that would contribute to its success.

This presentation is not intended as a product pitch, but rather an example of the work that I am capable of. It is my hope that by publishing this presentation, I am afforded the opportunity of discussing potential employment opportunities with companies involved in the development of web based services and products. For more information about me and my work, please view my website at