Bachchao: A mobile call for help.

Posted on Dec 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

Trigger warning for victims of assault.

Imagine that you are walking home from work on a dark winter’s night. To get to your apartment, you have to walk through a narrow alley that leads to your building. Over the last few weeks, there have been several muggings in that alley. Each time, the victims said that they screamed but no one heard or called the police. When the victims went to the police to make a report, not much happened. Despite the fact that the victims claimed that they could easily identify their attackers, with no witnesses there’s not really any evidence to use against the alleged criminals. You’d rather not go down that alley, but there’s not much choice. This is your only way home.

What if you could carry around an eyewitness? Bachchao (pronounced BAH-chow) is an open source mobile app for personal security launched at Random Hacks of Kindness in Bangalore, India in June of 2012. It was created to help mitigate the danger in situations like this. Bachchao provides two main services in the event of a crime: 1) It sends an alarm via SMS to one or more trusted friends and 2) it records a video which can serve as a digital witness when no live witnesses are around. The message that your friends receive includes location information to help them guide police directly to you. The video is streamed directly to a server so that even if your phone is taken from you, the video will be safe.

Since the June 2012 RHoK, Chinmayi SK and other developers have continued work on the project at a few hackathons, and the application is beginning to take form. There is a server application written in Python for managing video uploads, and several developers have started work on apps for Windows Mobile, iPhone and Android. In addition to using the technical data for the location of the phone, the web service identifies nearby landmarks and police stations to help trusted friends explain to police exactly where the victim can be found.

Unfortunately, progress is moving very slowly as there has not been much work completed outside of hackathon days and the team is limited, so they’re looking for tech experts who’d like to help. Currently, all of the mapping functions use Google Maps API. Bachchao would like a developer familiar with Open Street Maps to redo the mapping tools. They’d also like to send data from Bachchao to an application like Taarifa which can map out crime statistics so users can stay informed. Additional help is needed to speed up the development of any of the smart phone apps so they can be put into beta testing as soon as possible.

If you would like to help the Bachchao team, Chinmayi asks that you fork the code repository and join the bachchao developers list on Google Groups.