SOS and emergency app: ICE for Android

When I read this morning that Mumbai Police are launching an SOS App for emergency situations I was delighted. Such apps have been around for some time, but have not been actively promoted or recommended as a way for people on crime scenes to summon quick relief. It's great that Mumbai Police have teamed up with KPMG and NASSCOM to speedily launch this app in the wake of the Delhi gangrape case and growing concern about the safety of women in our cities.

You can download the free app called ICE - Mumbai Police from the Google Play Store. Currently its available only for Android devices but will soon be launched on BB and iOS platforms too. You should be able to use most of the functions in the app even if you are not in Mumbai but the pre-listed hotline numbers may be different for your city.

Start-up screen

Homescreen of the ICE App
Three types of actions are possible from the app home screen that you see above:

1) Access to general information

You can read useful information under the sections 'Family Emergency Kit' and 'Essentials for Emergency Kit'. Possibly put together under the guidance of the police, these sections give you a checklist of things that you must maintain for emergencies - a first aid box, a utility kit, emergency rations, scanned copy of all important documents in the cloud etc.  The section "In case of emergency' gives you brief instructions on what to do in a variety of situations including fire, flood and terrorist attack.

2) Access and call emergency phone numbers

You can use the app to make one-click calls  to public Mumbai hotline numbers including Ambulance Service, Police Control Room and Women's Helpline.

Click the phone icon to call emergency services

The app uses GPS to list nearby hospitals. Alternately you can access a city-wise directory of key hospitals in any part of India. Again, phone numbers have been given for all the hospitals.

List of nearby hospitals with approx. distance from my location

The app has Google Maps in-built, allowing you to navigate to the nearest hospital. 

Use Google Maps to navigate from your location to the nearest hospital

In addition to the pre-defined emergency numbers, you can also enter your own list of emergency numbers, categorised into various fields like doctor, family and local police station. This is a useful resource for the user, or anyone who is assisting the user in distress as they can easily find your key contacts and notify them.

Enter your personal emergency phone numbers

You can input personal medical information on blood group, medication, allergies etc. into the app which is helpful to doctors treating you in case of emergency.

Fields to enter life-saving medical information

3) SOS Function

This is the raison d'etre and most crucial functionality of the app. ICE will send an SOS Emergency message to a pre-defined list of contacts, at the press of a button. It DOES NOT send SMS directly to the police (and it ought not to, otherwise their energy might get diverted in investigating accidental or prank summons).

When you first run the app, it will ask you to add at least one SOS contact, and will remind you each time till you do this.

To set it up, you need to add contacts under the SOS Field (only SOS contacts receive an automatic SMS at the press of a button). There is no limit on the number of SOS contacts that you can set up, and you can enter upto two mobile numbers per contact.

Use the 'contact' button to import numbers from your contacts

I set up three emergency numbers - my dad and two friends - and tested the SOS function. To activate it you need to press and hold the red SOS button in the top right hand corner of the screen. Hold it for 10-15 seconds and it will trigger a loud alarm sound which lasts for a count of 30 seconds. The alarm is REALLY loud and bound to attract attention.

Press the red SOS button to trigger a loud alarm and send automatic emergency messages

Simultaneously, SMS messages will go out to your SOS contacts - I checked this and it works perfectly. The location information gets automatically included in the SMS.

This is the text of the SOS SMS that your emergency contacts will receive

On a personal note, I am happy to review and promote this app. Like many Indians, I have experienced a lot of anger, sadness and introspection after  the Delhi Gang Rape. I deeply desire a safer world for us to live in. And I think any initiative that helps us to protect ourselves, help others, or help the police, is a valuable one. I urge everyone who reads this post to download and try out this app. It's a small step, but it's a good one. In an emergency, even small things can make a big difference.

Update on 08 Jan 2013 : A KPMG spokesperson informed me through Twitter that the app will be released for BlackBerry and iOS platforms in two weeks time.


  1. does your city have the equivalent of the american emergency hot line '911' ? we have been watching footage of the spontaneous outpouring of emotions in public arenas of Delhi after the horrific crime came to light. is there or was there a debate on prevention of crimes against women ? we thought that much was said and written about meting out speedy justice to the criminals. changing the mindset of men in a diverse country such as India will take time. there are deep rooted prejudices and value systems which place women on a different level.

    1. Hello Janice, Yes we do have emergency hotlines in Mumbai and most major Indian cities. While many of us have till date never felt a need to memorize or use them, now we are changing our minds. A huge debate is still raging in mass media and on social networks about the real reasons for rape. The more conservative view seems to suggest that it is the responsibility of women to avoid getting raped! And thankfully, a more liberal view that suggests gender sensitisation programs in schools, among the police force, and fast tracking of rape cases in courts. Ultimately, the tragedy is forcing us to introspect, to argue and question - all of which are good things. But yes, like any social change, it's going to take a long time to reflect in ground realities.

  2. there are innumerable cases of violence against women in rural india that do not get the same attention as this case in Delhi. many of them are afraid to speak up and report to the police for fear of reprisal and alienation from the local communities of which they are a part. Stringent punishment must be given to offenders. poor women without access to android phones can only shout hoping that someone would come to their rescue. also there is violence inside homes which is another category altogether.

    Janice - how do you tackle such crimes in rural america ? Please share knowledge

  3. you see, these TV channels drum up interest in a sensational issue then move on after the dust settles down. crocodile tears, passionate speeches and hollow exhortations mark public discourse. the police has to crack down 'consistently' and not just act to bring closure to this one case. we don't have big budget as america has for law enforcement. Mani - lessons from america cannot be useful. we have to evolve our own methods.

    delhi tops the list of unsafe cities may be but there are dark unsafe towns in the hinterland where women are very vulnerable

  4. is your film industry to blame partly for its depiction of women to titillate audiences and reinforce the notion that such behavior can be tolerated on the streets ? i know that there is no solution as a manner of speaking and that a change of culture has to happen gradually

  5. by the way, i am sorry to have brought up this issue in a technology blog and steered the topic off course. My apology to the blog author !

    1. Janice, it's alright! Yes, it's a tech blog, but I am also a woman who has keenly followed and discussed this case with my friends. To answer your question, films only present and re-inforce a duality that is omnipresent and puzzling in our culture - respect for woman as mother/nurturer/ goddess and at the same time woman as sensual object/vamp. However, film stars speak up strongly for social causes including women's rights - and film stars are much bigger role models for the common man than films themselves. To be completely honest, none of us have a complete answer as to why violence against women is growing. It has been heartening that many men (including men I know personally) have been vocal in their support for women's rights and have stood right next to women during protests.

  6. Mumbai police must be lauded for releasing a very useful and timely app to help its citizens. Even though it is to help women, it can also be used by all, especially senior citizens, travellers who are robbed, beaten and left in the middle of nowhere.

    Highly appreciate Nisha's sampath's effort to write about the app within hours of launching.

    When will others - windows, blackberry, symbian (nokia) and apple wake up?

  7. Sometime even opening such app and one-click could be too cumbersome in a crisis situation ! Check ou ShakeSOS and innovative app by me and my friend.

  8. Sometime even opening such app and one-click could be too cumbersome in a crisis situation ! Check ou ShakeSOS and innovative app by me and my friend.


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