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Here is my latest blog post:


Better roaming messages

If you’ve ever crossed a border with roaming enabled on your cell phone, you have received them. The “surf & call abroad cheaper with this pack…” Or “$operator accompanies you in @country. Call ### for your mailbox, local number prefix is +%% , use +&& to call @home_country number … Have a nice stay”, usually containing details about roaming costs. In Europe, with my french provider (Orange), whenever I cross a (European) border, that message also contains “emergency number is 112” which is actually useful. However, when I go outside the EU and Switzerland, this information is missing. For example in Singapore, Indonesia, Turkey or Thailand.

This information is easy to find, if you have the foresight to note it down before your trip or have access to the internet where you’re going.

So I was thinking three things:

  1. Why don’t the operators do that for all countries, at least where they have a roaming agreement with a local provider?
  2. Providing this kind of information offline would make a useful app.
  3. Why should this information be in a roaming SMS and not displayed by the phone in case of emergency?

Better SMS

The foreign operators need an agreement with a local provider, so why can’t they obtain the list of local emergency service numbers when they sign the agreement? Emergency phone numbers don’t change that often! And it would be a nice service for their customers.

A Travel Emergency Number in the App Store

I haven’t looked in any app store, but it would be great if it also included the numbers of your embassy, and the number to call if you have to cancel your credit card (though if you have to cancel your credit cards, chances are your phone is also missing).

An (e-)ink business card that you keep out of your wallet could also be a cost effective implementation of this idea.

Displaying emergency numbers on the Phone

If you try to use a locked smartphone, there will be a way to access an emergency dialer, which allows you to dial those emergency numbers. It will only say “emergency”, sometimes alternating between different languages. It would be more useful if this dialer also listed the local emergency numbers.

Assuming the phone can display a list of numbers in the emergency dialer, it requires that it has accurate and relevant numbers.

The most elegant solution would be that when a cellphone connects to a new network, it automatically gets the emergency numbers from the network at the same time as the authorization to connect. This likely involve an update to the handshake protocol between phone and networks and is therefore the most pie in the sky idea.

Another method would be that the phone has this information for every country as part of the firmware, and a way to know which country it currently is in. I don’t know if the national phone number prefix is part of the handshake protocol, or if mapping operator id to country is sufficient to select the relevant emergency numbers (as MVNO popup every other week or so). This is inelegant but easier to implement, and, as noted above, emergency numbers are unlikely to change very often (even if operators are regularly renamed, consolidated or shut down).

Latest posts:
2014/06/30 Alive again
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