Entrepreneur: Smartphones can protect against assaults

A Reno entrepreneur with a mission to protect women and children is trying to turn smartphones into virtual body guards.

Arm Safety Button is an application and service for iPhone and Android-based smartphones that once triggered automatically sets off an alarm, takes a rapid series of photos of an assailant, projects a blinding light and places a call to 911.

A woman, for example, walking alone in a parking lot at night can turn on the application, which then starts tracking the phone and its user's exact location via GPS. That's all the application does until it is turned off or activated by sliding the large application icon on the phone screen. Once launched, the photos and location data is automatically sent to a hosted database where it is stored and can be later used as evidence, said Johnny Landers, founder and chief executive officer of Arm Safety Button.

Landers came up with the idea for the system after his daughter, 13 years old at the time, was raped by a neighbor. In the aftermath, he learned that many of the country's 911 centers are not sophisticated enough to track the location of cell phones. (Emergency response systems are in the process of upgrading to receive text, data, video and images from mobile phones under a federal initiative called Next Generation 911.)

"I kept thinking about what I could do to help. The police told me they gave free phones to (abused) women to call 911, but it was just a Band-Aid," said Landers. "So I started thinking about their phones. Why couldn't the phone be a lifeline?"

That sparked the idea behind Arm Safety Button. Landers hired a code developer to create the application and began marketing it, mostly through social media such as Twitter and his website, armsafetybutton.com.

About 125 people have downloaded the application but none have yet had to use it in an emergency. The application and service is $9.95 a month, or $90 annually. Landers provides it free of charge to abuse victims in shelters.

Landers marketing and mission don't end there. He is also hosting a weekly radio show called The Village on www.nevadamatters.us, a community radio website. On it, he focuses on issues he cares about, including a recent show on the Reno-based Committee to Aid Abused Women and another on Quest Counseling, in Reno, which specializes in substance abuse counseling for adolescents.


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