Many lessons have been learned from the recent Virginia Tech student shootings. Here's one of them: when it came to alerting students to the fact that a gunman was at large, email proved itself to be ineffective. As a result, mobile handsets are now being viewed as the safety and security devices of the future.
MGM Wireless CEO Mark Fortunatow told Charged that the publicity surrounding the tragedy has made institutions re-prioritize the importance of being able to communicate with students and parents at all times. MGM's system was initially developed as a method of monitoring student attendance with parents receiving notification in the case of an absentee. But Fortunatow says the emergence of critical safety issues has meant that the application is being increasingly adopted as the primary communication tool between student, teachers and guardians.
The vendor-neutral MGM system can't physically track students, but Fortunatow says that the company is currently exploring a GPS-based solution for
However, most operators don't offer safety/tracking services - partly because GSM networks (which account for 80 per cent of the world's mobile users) can't support GPS without expensive add-on equipment, and partly because they view safety tracking as too niche.
As such, independent service providers like Mobiles2go are stepping in. Mobiles2go, an international provider of safety and monitoring services, initially launched focusing on children's safety with its i-Kids service. Already entrenched in markets such as
Mobiles2go founder Mark Gullickson says that until now, carriers have viewed the child safety market segment alone as too marginal to invest in. But with evolving device and software technology, safety applications can now be delivered to wider markets such as seniors, lone workers and business-vehicles. The company, which now operates in eight countries and is forecasting 400,000 active subscribers by year end, plans to sign on one million subscribers by the end of
Gullickson says that consumers are increasingly demanding more complex levels of safety with their mobility services, including zone alerts, route information, remote user controls, emergency call services and - for senior citizens and lone workers - a "man-down" alert function that alerts the office or dispatch center if the device owner has fallen or not moved.
Gullickson expects mass market adoption will follow once handset makers launch mid and low tier handsets with integrated GPS receivers around 2008/2009.
"This will allow niche providers of such safety services to simply install their device-specific software onto the users mobile," he says.