The excellent textually.org carries a piece about a technology which would allow people to “receive emergency messages on their mobile phones via an audio system — even when networks are down or out of reach, such as when underground”. The signal would be embedded as “data in an audio signal which can be transmitted over a radio, TV or PA system and sent using an encoded link via SLS to mobiles in the vicinity.”
It sounds like a good idea. I’d love to see the cellphone used more imaginatively as a way to reach and transmit emergency data — whether it’s information which may help the owner, or as a beacon for the owner to convey their location. After the London bombing I was thinking aloud about whether Bluetooth could in some way be used as a kind of panic button allowing people to pass on information even when existing networks were congested or down. But as I have as much technical knowledge as a penguin this idea may not have reached the powers that be.
Still, my own ignorance aside, I think the cellphone needs to be considered as a vital lifeline — the awful sadness of SMS messages being sent by schoolchildren trapped under landslides in the Philippines should be reminder enough that everyone has one of these things in their hand nowadays and make it seem such an obvious step to try to make them a more useful emergency device.