Apple Patents Emergency Alert That Calls the Cops When You Can't

An Apple patent published today details a theoretical feature that would enable your mobile device to detect an emergency and alert your designated contacts or the police. And y'know what? It actually makes a lot of sense.

The patent application for "mobile emergency attack and failsafe detection" outlines a series of ways your smartphone could be configured to send out a distress signal. Users could choose the event that would trigger the emergency call, whether it's a shock detected by the accelerometer, a sudden loud noise picked up by the microphone, or the headphones being yanked out of their jack.

There's even mention of a "dead man's switch," where the user would hold down a button or portion of the touchscreen, and letting go would trigger the response, or a "failsafe mode" that requires regular interaction to prevent the alarm. Another implementation would detect traffic accidents by monitoring accelerometers for a sudden stop.

The smartphone's response would be user-configured, either an audible alarm, or a silent alert that would call a defined emergency contact or dial 911, perhaps providing GPS coordinates in the latter case.

As always, just because Apple has filed a patent doesn't mean the company is compelled to deliver the goods. And the trick here is to make the system sensitive enough to detect real emergencies without blasting users with a thousand false alarms a day. We should note, the system would need to be manually turned on by the user—it's not meant to call the cops every time an iPhone is accidentally nudged off a tabletop.

The cool part is, this feature, as described in the patent papers, doesn't seem to require any technology that isn't already baked into most every smartphone. It sure seems like this emergency detection setup could be implemented pretty easily. We'll just have to wait and see. [U.S. Patent & Trademark Office via AppleInsider]