A new head-up display (HUD) device by Navdy is available which sits on the car’s dash and projects transparent maps, and texts six feet out onto the road. It can also be automatically controlled by your body – for example, it’ll automatically read an incoming text message if you wave your hand to the left. Although the device manufacturer, Navdy, sold 20,000 units two years ago in a pre-sale for $300 apiece, the company is now shipping the gadget with an $800 price tag.
Review: Is There a Safe Way to Text While Driving? [via The Wall Street Journal]
A unique public safety message that was ostensibly billed as a billboard advertisement for a funeral home went up on Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway last year.
“Text and drive,” the billboard for Wathan Funeral Home proclaims, encouraging drivers to engage in the deadly practice to give it more business.
But those who looked up and went to the supposed company’s website found the real reason for the ad:
If you’re here, you’ve probably seen our “Text and Drive” billboard. And if you have, you probably came to this website to tell us what horrible people we are for running an ad like that. And you’d be right.
It is a horrible thing for a funeral home to do. But we’re not a funeral home.
We’re just trying to get Canadians to stop texting and driving, which, if current trends continue, is expected to exceed fatalities from drinking and driving as early as next year. And while most people wouldn’t even think about drinking and driving, over half of Ontario drivers admit to reading texts while behind the wheel. That’s more than half of the drivers on the road today risking their lives, their passengers’ lives and the lives of their fellow motorists and pedestrians.
Which should make you even madder than our billboard did.
The billboard was produced by a Toronto ad agency looking to raise awareness of the dangers of texting and driving. The website says that though most people understand the dangers of drinking and driving, more than half of Ontario drivers admit to reading texts while driving. This, while deaths from texting and driving in Canada are on track to surpass deaths from drinking and driving as early as this year, 2017.
In the U.S., 46 states and the District of Columbia ban texting while driving.
Fake funeral home advertises with ‘text and drive’ billboards [via The Miami Herald]
As we had mentioned in this post a few years ago, texting – not calling – 911 for emergency help would hit the mainstream market in the near future. That day is now here. Sort of. Text-to-911 is now available in select areas. Check out this handy list of supported cities to see if your town supports the feature. That said, though the service will be particularly useful to users who are deaf or hard of hearing, for the general public it still makes more sense just to call in the emergency, as texts must include your full name/address and a brief description of the issue. Likewise, communication and instructions from the 911 operator will take that much longer to receive, and the operator won’t be able to hear what’s going on around you. The plan is for text-to-911 to go national by year’s end.
Now you can text 911… just not from everywhere [via Engadget]
Software called LogAnalysis could help law enforcement map the structure of a criminal gang by analyzing the mobile phone records of the gang’s members. This is not the first time software has been used to do so, as Orca has been used by major police departments to analyze arrest records to understand relationships between criminals. The LogAnalysis software was develped by Indiana University researchers led by Emilio Ferrara, and it uses call records and other data to map gang hierarchy using “social network theory.” As funny as it may sound, this theory can be neatly summarized by saying that those who make the most calls are likely at the bottom of the hierarchy, while those who make the least calls are at the top (apparently even the top leadership in a criminal gang is as aloof as in legitimate organizations). Apparently, at least some of the group’s researchers are from Sicily, leading to some reasonable assumptions regarding what criminal organization they have been using as a base for their work!
How to Detect Criminal Gangs Using Mobile Phone Data [via MIT Technology Review]
It would be helpful to law enforcement if wireless carriers would keep a record of all text messages sent and received on their networks for as long as possible. After all, it is all too easy for a cell phone owner to manually delete text messages off their phones if not even wipe their phones clean of all data (in certain cases it may be possible to recover such deleted text messages etc. by having the phone forensically analyzed, but that is a hit or miss situation depending on factors including the type of phone and actions taken by the user). However, if a wireless carrier keeps a copy of all text messages sent over its network, all that would have to be done is to request (or subpoena) said records. Whether or not a carrier actually does this varies from carrier to carrier:
Wireless providers’ current SMS retention policies vary. An internal Justice Department document (PDF) that the ACLU lawfully obtained via the Freedom of Information Act shows that, as of 2010, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint did not store the contents of text messages. Verizon did for up to five days, a change from its earlier no-logs-at-all position, and Virgin Mobile kept them for 90 days. The carriers generally kept metadata such as the phone numbers associated with the text for 90 days to 18 months; AT&T was an outlier, keeping it for as long as seven years.
An e-mail message from a detective in the Baltimore County Police Department, leaked by Antisec and reproduced in a 2011 Wired article, says that Verizon keeps “text message content on their servers for 3-5 days.” And: “Sprint stores their text message content going back 12 days and Nextel content for 7 days. AT&T/Cingular do not preserve content at all. Us Cellular: 3-5 days Boost Mobile LLC: 7 days”
Many in the legal and law enforcement community have expressed concern that there are such wide discrepancies between carriers in how long such data is kept. Richard Littlehale, Assistant Special Agent in Charge with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, discussed the issue in detail in prepared remarks before Congress earlier this year.
http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-57575039-38/cops-u.s-law-should-require-logs-of-your-text-messages/ [via C|Net]
Sweden has started a new program called SMS Lifesaver (or SMSlivräddare in Swedish) which will automatically text someone trained in CPR if they are within 500 meters of a person in need who has called 112 (equivalent to 911 in the U.S.). For the pilot study, the country has enlisted the help of 9,600 volunteers in Stockholm who agreed to give out their home addresses so that they could be contacted if needed. Given that the average ambulance response time in Stockholm hovers around eight minutes, they have found that volunteers can get to victims before ambulances in 54 percent of cases. This is particularly key as the odds of surviving cardiac arrest drop 10 percent for every minute it takes first responders to arrive.
Text messages are saving Swedes from cardiac arrest [via Quartz]
India’s information technology minister Kapil Sibal has unveiled plans to develop a new wristwatch by mid-2013 that will make it easier for the wearer to call 911. With the press of a button, the watch will send a text message requesting emergency help to the nearest police station as well as to pre-selected family members, and included with it will be the wearer’s GPS location, which the watch is always updating. With recent highly publicized news stories about violence against women, the watch is meant to make it easier for women to call for help. Though the watch is not without criticism (namely, that the text messages may be ignored or that help may not come quick enough if it is not taken as seriously), it is an interesting concept that reportedly will also sell at a compelling price point: $20 for the cheapest model, and up to $50 for the highest-end version.
A Wrist-Worn Answer to Sexual Attack [via The Wall Street Journal]
This is even cooler than that guy from Utah who walked through a TSA security screening wearing only a speedo, and got it all on Youtube. If he had worn these special undergarments, however, then he could have given the staff a special message courtesy of the scan-proof metallic ink used to imprint messages on the undergarment. Called 4th Amendment Wear, the company says that the purpose behind the undergarments is “to get a few people to think a little more about their constitutional rights.” The message emprinted on the garments, which is opaque to TSA body scanning machines and so show up quite clearly to the security officers manning the devices, simply read off the 4th Amendment text: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
We’re not sure if this is a great idea to actually wear, lest you’d prefer being singled out for a TSA full body pat-down, as the TSA admits this could be the end result in its official blog, while at the same time saying it is the passenger’s right to wear what they want. Totally up to you though.
How dangerous is texting while driving? It is already acknowledged that texting while driving may be just as bad, if not worse, than driving while intoxicated. The simple reason is that the act of sending and receiving texts quickly distracts the driver, resulting in accidents that otherwise could have been avoided. However, until recently, it was difficult to put hard numbers to the numbers of fatalities as a direct result of texting while behind the wheel.
According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health in September, there were 16,000 deaths between 2001 and 2007 as a result of texting while driving. The study also found that the number of driving fatalities as a result of cell phone texting increased by 28 percent between 2005 and 2008 alone.
The increased number of fatalities correlates well with the fact that though overall cell phone use has remained steady in recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in texting, said University of North Texas Professor Fernando Wilson, the study’s lead author.
Given that one recent study says that the average teen sends out 50 texts a day – and one in three sends more than 100 daily – one can only wonder how texting while driving has affected car accident rates in the years since 2007, the final year of the study.
Texting While Driving Killed 16,000 [via MainStreet]
Text messaging explodes as teens embrace it as the centerpiece of their communication strategies with friends. [via The Pew Internet and American Life Project]
What if you need to dial 911, but can’t call out or talk on the phone? What if you’re in a hostage situation or hiding in a closet from a burglar and don’t want to alert the suspect? What if you get patchy reception on your cell phone or are speech or hearing impaired? Is it possible to simply text your emergency to 911?
Most law enforcement agencies have yet to implement such a service, though Marion County in Florida is one of the latest to do just that. Residents in need of emergency services can text to a number at the Sheriff’s Office in order to receive assistance, although officials stress that the emergency text service should only be used if absolutely necessary – calling in on the voice line remains the standard. The service is particularly useful as cell phone reception in some rural parts of the county is unreliable. Once the county’s Communication Center receives the 911 text, the location of the caller is automatically determined and emergency first responders are quickly dispatched. With the assistance of a reserve deputy who volunteered his time to get the system up and running, the computer system required for the service cost just $1,000 to install, with an additional $50 per month for regular maintenance.
The first call center to reportedly begin accepting emergency text messages was a Black Hawk, Iowa 911 call center in August 2009.
Privacy issues remain one of the main concerns regarding the new 911 texting service: what if a domestic violence victim’s cell phone is searched by the abuser? Text messages that are not erased have the potential to be used against the victim later.