talKKonnect and Communicating for Safety and Security

talKKonnect has several unique features that can help people stay safe, if they find themselves in dangerous areas of the world and need to call for help. Many parts of the world or lines of work are inherently unsafe. People get injured, kidnapped, robbed, lost, involved in road or other accidents and incidents all the time. Sending a timely emergency alert call, with the details of the dangerous situation unfolding and possibly a GPS position, can often mean a difference between life and death.

A lot of effort was being put into designing functions in talKKonnect that can help people communicate for safety.

How to Configure Panic button in talKKonnect?

In talkkonnect.xml configuration file, specify the alert sound which is going to be played when the panic button is pressed. This can be a siren sound or any other sound.

<!-- Panic Sound File (WAV format) to be played into stream -->
<alert enabled="true">

Next, specify the GPIO button to be used for panic function. This can be any free GPIO. Just assign one GPIO to a panic button, when planing your talKKonnect build.

<!-- Set GPIO for Panel Buttons -->
<panicbuttonpin>14</panicbuttonpin> <!-- Push Button to Send out Panic Distress Call -->

In this case GPIO pin 14 was used.

Under a hardware section in talkkonnect config file, set the panic alert parameters.

<!-- Set Parameters for Panic Button Simulation -->
<panicfunction enabled="true">
<panicmessage>Emergency Alert! I Need Help Now!</panicmessage>

How does the panic function work?

talKKonnect device can be installed in a vehicle and use 2.5G/3G/4G networks for connectivity on the road. You can do “radio-checks” and provide updates on your Mumble channel, as you are making progress in your trip. talKKonnect can work with an excellent GPS tracking platform Traccar, so your … operations room, head-office, dispatcher, home, friends… your “mother ship” will always have your near real-time position. When the panic button is pressed, an alert sound is immediately played in the Mumble channel. Depending on the selected options, talKKonnect microphone can become “hot” and ambient audio sounds during the incident are then streamed into the Mumble channel.

It is the “txlock” setting in the configuration, that locks the ptt and makes talKKonnect go into an “eavesdropping” mode. The eavesdropping will last for predetermined amount of time “txlocktimeoutsecs” or until it can be interrupted by another user action.

A “sendgpslocation” function will also send a GPS location of talKKonnect device on a panic event, if GPS module is installed and enabled. An alert can also come through talKKonnect email function or other applications.

If a “lowprofile” mode is enabled, all of the LED lights and a display backlight will be turned off and this will make talKKonnect device look completely inconspicuous, sitting idle, without attracting unwanted attention from anyone hostile.

talKKonnect led lights and display will be re-enabled once the talKKonnect user who triggered the panic alert is able to talk back once again.

There are other functions in talKKonnect currently under development, like recording of the audio after the panic alert was sent, or taking image snapshots or video, documenting what is going on around the talKKonnect device.

Use case: Prevention of hijacking, hostage taking, or kidnapping in dangerous zones

In many countries of the world there are, unfortunately, ongoing civil wars. Syria, Yemen, Libya… to name just the most recent.

There are ongoing insurgencies or low intensity civil conflicts in Central African Republic, South Sudan, Chad, Cameroon, Mali, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo.

People live in conflict zones and have to move between places. Moving between any two places in Iraq can still be considered unsafe, 17 years after the second Iraq war.

In such zones, government security forces, the insurgents or different waring factions, often manage their “fixed” or “mobile” check points along the roads.

Armed people who command you to slow down and pull over for a security check in war zones, will be in most cases, the legitimate government security forces. But there could also be “fake” check-points set or criminals posing as police officers. There had been many documented cases where “the bad guys” dress up in fake police or army uniforms and set up their “check-points” to conduct attacks or snatch civilians from cars and take them hostage.

Dressing up in the adversary uniform and using adversary insignia to deceive or initiate “false-flag” attacks, is against the Hague regulations, Geneva convention and it’s additional protocols, ICC statute. It is against any of the legal codes trying to regulate conflicts in the modern world. Furthermore, it is considered a crime, more precisely a war crime. But this is not completely unheard of in today’s dangerous world and it’s different war zones.

Regardless of what uniform the forces who are commanding you to stop are wearing, whether they are trying to deceive the unsuspecting victims to pull over or don’t even try to conceal their true identity, whether they are “real” or “fake”, the risk from a kidnapping for a civilian or an aid worker, moving inside a conflict zone is real.

Sometimes, the “irregular” forces don’t even have to bother fabricating fake uniforms and insignia of the regular security forces in order to conduct  “false-flag” operations. In many of the war zones it’s hard to tell who controls the roads. Security situation can be fluid. In the “fog of war” it may be hard to tell, who are the armed people in front of your vehicle commanding you to stop.

If you find yourself living or working in dangerous places of the world and travel alongside dangerous roads, you may not know before an incident suddenly unfolds … if it happens, panic button and talKKonnect device can immediately become your best friend, to help bring you back to safety. If you are being kidnapped, you may only have seconds to press a panic button and pass critically important information, without attracting the “bad guys” attention and hope for the best.

Your best protection is, of course, not going to “dangerous” places, if the risk is unacceptable and can not be managed. In case of an incident occurring, an audio stream from the incident, a GPS position of talKKonnect device and possibly snapshot images or video clips, can come from a talKKonnect device and they can be essential for bringing you back to safety.

The panic button itself wont protect you from the potential assailants. It just helps send an alert to people who might be able to help you. After all, you dont know initially what the “bad guys” are up to? Maybe they only want your vehicle, your valuables? Or maybe they want you? Your safety must depend on a much bigger plan, on an operating procedure detailing how to respond to security incidents in your organization.

Then, there is an issue of what happens with talKKonnect device if it falls in the “wrong” hands, when the vehicle is hijacked? This is a decision for a “dispatcher”, in a talKKonnect network. He can choose to let talKKonnect device run in a “low profile” mode and continue to collect information from the incident. Or he can “stun” talKKonnect device remotely by destroying it’s file system or config files, to prevent the “bad guys” from accessing the talKKonnect network. If SSL certificates are used for connecting to Mumble server, they can be revoked to prevent access. talKKonnect clients can also work with http provisioning server, where the configuration files are centrally managed.

Now you know what the panic button function in talKKonnect project was designed for? If you happen to live in less dangerous parts of the world, you can re-purpose panic alerting function for some other logic or the chances are, you probably just won’t need it. But if you “live and work dangerously”, then you may truly appreciate panic alerting  function and talKKonnect as a communication device.

Happy “talkkonnecting”! We sincerely hope you will never have to use a  “panic button” feature for real.

All in one desktop build

Talkkonnect has a lot of bells and whistles. Sometimes you just want a minimal build. So that’s just what i build today as a Sunday project.

This particular build uses a Raspberry Pi 3A+ and run on Wifi, with one PTT button, A Small OLED Screen, Volume knob, Power Switch, Audio Output Jack and Power DC Jack.

Simple Desktop talkkonnect build using project box and Oker Computer microphone.
Volume Knob, Power In, Power Switch and Audio Output Jack.