How Technology Can Ensure Safer Cities

Some easy to assemble and very cost effective solutions that can ensure security and peace of mind for citizens.

Harsh Kumar May 13, 2013 18:10:51 IST
How Technology Can Ensure Safer Cities

The alarming rise in ghastly crimes against women, children and senior citizens all over the country has made everyone think of the problem and look for solutions -- long term, short term, preventive controls, detective controls and so on. This is my attempt to suggest one.

An analysis of the different facts would make us accept these incidents, especially the Delhi case in December, 2012 where the crime was perpetrated in a moving bus, do not happen on account of a single failure in our system but due to multiple failures in the different connected systems of our society. Here is only an indicative, and by no means exhaustive, list:

  • Police posts (apparently the vehicle passed through three barriers/posts) did not check the vehicle with black film and curtains – both prohibited items and both visible from distance.

  • No one got suspicious even when the vehicle made two-three turns around the same area. When the vehicle was passing the same point second/third time someone should have stopped it and checked.

  • The system does not check or crack down on the automobile repair shops to ensure that they do not fit such (dark) glasses in the vehicle in the first place.

  • The transport department does not have an effective mechanism to ensure that the transporters’ vehicles run only on the authorised routes and during the permitted hours. The licensees themselves also do not have a track of where their vehicles are any given point of time.

  • Transporters do not get the particulars of their staff verified by police. There is no effective system to ensure that the transporters do not employ underage persons and/or they verify the particulars of their staff with police and register them with police or with some other agency.

  • We lack an effective system to ensure that the transporters carry out their responsibilities and are held accountable for lapses.

Looking at these failures, we can work on alternative ways to solve this problem by attending to the sources of different failures. Let us make an attempt to analyse Transport and Police Departments and make some suggestions to improve the system. Let us look at two aspects -- the monitoring and licensing system for transport vehicles and second, a system to help the victim to send SOS to alert and to seek help from the police and others.

Monitoring And Licensing System For Transport Vehicles

Registration Of Vehicle

The transport department registers vehicles after details from the owner are obtained i.e. submitting particulars of the vehicle, payment of fees, address proof, etc. Every registered vehicle can easily be traced to the owner.

The Transport Department must have an effective system to ensure that registration is issued only after vehicle particulars including its look and graphics on it are recorded in a searchable database. Building such databases is not difficult particularly when we are building a lot more complex and voluminous databases on population.

Under the licensing arrangement, it should be the duty of the transporter to record any changes that may be made by them in these registered parameters, e.g., dimension, colour, look, etc. During the checks on the roads, officials should be able to access the database through hand held devices by keying in the registration number of the vehicle. The number would be searched in the database and the recorded particulars/parameters in the database could be returned to the device. The official would match these with the particulars/parameters on the vehicle to ensure that there are no unauthorised changes. Violations should be dealt with rather severely. The device used could be as simple as a mobile phone and the system quite like the PNR checking system of railways. Difference being that this system will return the registered details of the vehicle rather than the details of the ticket as in the case of railways.

How Technology Can Ensure Safer Cities

Unique And Easy Identification System For Automated Tracking And Monitoring

The Transport Department might like to mandate that all the vehicles must have a uniquely identifiable GPS based device attached to it details of which would be captured in the above database. Permits issued would be recorded in the monitoring system connected with the database. This monitoring system will track the vehicle in real-time and immediately flash violations to the Transport Department and/or Police. Such a system is not very difficult to plan, architect, develop and implement.

The record built by the GPS tracker will, of course, be preserved for record and analysed to ensure that the violators are booked in all cases- charged fine or the fees etc. Besides working as a preventive system it will increase licensing revenue of the department for it would be simple to charge correct and full license fees from the transporters.

Running the vehicle without the fully functional GPS device should be as much of a crime as running a vehicle without brakes. This will prevent the owners and drivers from disabling the device. This system will also ensure that in case of any accident at any place, the vehicles in the vicinity at that time get unambiguously identified. These could later be contacted for investigation and tracking the offenders.

Such a central monitoring and tracking system of vehicles is certainly doable and desirable to bring in discipline in the transport licensees and monitoring their activities in a transparent and unbiased manner. Additionally, it will bring revenue from the transporters who take license for a smaller and not popular route but run the vehicle on longer and/or more profitable route which has higher license fees.

How Technology Can Ensure Safer Cities

System To Help The Victim To Send SOS - Alert The Police And Others

Let us think of a way in which any victim could send an SOS message to alert the police and others and seek their help.

  • A GPS band or wrist watch could be made. These devices will beam the location of the victim in real-time once an alarm is triggered. Functioning of the device could be planned, designed, developed and commercially marketed. An overview of how the device can function is explained below.

  • GPS band would be small device of the size of a wrist band or watch and would be worn by anyone who is seeking protection. These devices would come pre-registered in the associated system which would record particulars of the person who is buying the device and seeking protection through the device.

  • Before their first use these devices would be registered with the special cell of police where full particulars of the user would be registered.

  • This device would have a special button which when pressed for a specified time (say 3-5 seconds) will alert and send SOS to police control.

  • Special cell/control room tracking the signal will direct the patrol cars to provide immediate and timely help.

How Technology Can Ensure Safer Cities

The above are some of the solutions which easy to assemble and very cost effective. I am sure the above systems would pay for themselves in a short time if we just compute the additional revenue it would bring as license fees, besides enhancing security and comfort level of our citizens.

Of course it is needless to say more solutions could be worked out and implemented as long as we have commitment and will to stop such ghastly incidents which make us hang our head in shame.

The author is Senior Railway Officer (more than 30 years of service) and is currently posted in Northern Railway as Financial Advisor & Chief Accounts Officer (Finance & General).

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