by Andrew Dunnett, Vodafone Foundation Director
Laura constantly lived in fear of an attack by her ex-partner. She had endured years of violence alone, convinced that she was to blame for her partner’s aggression.
It took one particularly violent outburst for her to finally contact the police. Soon after, she was handed a new innovation: a specially-adapted, covert device called TecSOS, designed by the Vodafone Foundation to give people like Laura direct and fast access to the Police.
She could keep the device close to her at all times, knowing that, if she found herself in a similar situation again it would be simple and discreet to activate.
In addition, the global tracking and location capabilities mean that, once activated, police could identify Laura, track her location and deploy police officers in a matter of minutes - evaluations have shown an 11% reduction in police response times.
This technology has transformed the lives of thousands of people like Laura in the UK, as well as in Ireland, Germany, Spain and Portugal – 81,000 in total to date. As well as having the potential to save lives, the device gives people trying to rebuild their lives following an abusive relationship a life-line to safety and protection in their day-to-day lives. Previous programmes used by the police gave survivors a fixed panic button in their homes, but this could make the victim feel like a prisoner in their own house.
TecSOS, however, is mobile - and small enough that it can be carried in a pocket or bag. So far, there have 1,879 activations in the UK alone since it launched in 2011.
TecSOS was initially developed by the Vodafone Spain Foundation in collaboration with the Spanish Red Cross. The programme was then brought to the UK in 2011, where over 90% of police forces have now adopted the technology as part of their approach to tackling domestic violence.
Working with Thames Valley Partnership we are constantly evaluating and evolving the technology and the TecSOS team work with those impacted by domestic abuse to understand and adapt the service to best fit their needs. Recent technological advancements include more accurate location tracking, which can be delivered at a lower cost.
And with such life-changing results, we are keen to work with our partners to bring TecSOS to other vulnerable groups of people that it could also help protect. So far, the Police has used TecSOS for very high-risk cases of domestic abuse.
We are now looking at opportunities to bring the technology to more people living in abusive relationships, meaning that TecSOS can play a small but important role in helping even more people affected by domestic violence to rebuild their lives.