At some point in our lives, we will have loved ones who live alone, but that doesn’t mean they have to be alone when help is urgently needed. Phones are great for reaching out – IF you can get to them and if you have time to dial, wait for the call to connect, and hopefully a live person picks up at the time of the call. Of course, one should always call 911 in any emergency, but there are sometimes even 911 may not be possible. Such as in the case of a home invasion or burglary, phone lines often get cut and smart intruders are getting savvy and jamming cellphones since many people no longer maintain land lines anymore. Often though, the internet service goes untouched.
I designed a panic button that exploits the internet and uses the popular IFTTT service to create and send notifications when the button is activated. The button is a very simple implementation and will work within 150 feet of the wireless router. When activated, by pressing and holding the button down for a few seconds, the ESP8266 chip connects to the preprogrammed WiFi network and calls a webhook on the IFTTT service (which is free). IFTTT then generates the alert which can arrive by SMS and/or email. You can aim the email destination to a single email or an email group so that multiple people can receive the alert when the button is activated. In an emergency, you may only have seconds to let people know you’re in trouble. Hitting a panic button and then calling 911 is a good combination in any emergency. In the case of your phone not working, someone else can then call 911 on your behalf if you can’t be reached, or they can check in on you if you are close by.
I wrote the source code for the button in C++ and it is available as an open source (anyone can freely use it) on Github. The code is compiled and burned onto an ESP01 (an ESP8266 variant) chip, which is powered by a 3 volt lithium cell (CR123) which is rated for a 10 year shelf life. This ensures that the button will always be available when you need it – and hopefully you won’t. I built the button inside an ABS plastic case which is very sturdy and allows the WiFi signal to emanate freely. The actual button also has a pink glow ring that doubles as an indicator that lets the user know the message was successfully sent, which can help put someone in distress at ease knowing that help has been summoned. This ring does not light if the button is out of range or if the button is unable to contact the IFTTT service, so you know when it is lit, that the message got out. All it takes to activate the alert is holding down the button until a steady glow is seen in the ring, which takes only a few seconds. This design helps to reduce or eliminate false positives if the button is ever bumped or knocked accidentally. More pictures of the button: