The new rules were announced by India’s telecom ministry to improve safety for women. While the numeric keys 5 and 9 will be used for panic buttons in feature phones, smartphone manufactures will have to introduce a new button or feature to send emergency alerts.

All manufactures, including Apple and Samsung, will have to abide by the new rules and introduce this software updates for phones sold in India.

Smartphone users should be able to make an emergency call by pressing the panic button for a long time, or by pressing the power on and off button in quick succession three times.

“Technology is solely meant to make human life better and what better than using it for the security of women,” India’s telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said in a statement. The feature had been first proposed by India’s minister for women and child development Maneka Gandhi last year, with Gandhi calling for the introduction of physical panic button on mobile phones last year. According to government data, there is a rape in India every 30 minutes.

India phones women

IMAGE: ANNA ZIEMINSKI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

When pressed, the button will dial an emergency number, though it hasn’t been specified what this will be. India does not have a national emergency yet, but plans to introduce 112 as its single emergency response number across the country in the next few months. The addition of GPS will allow the local police to map the location of the women in distress.

Several companies have already developed safety apps with similar features, such as Safetipin, bSafe, iSafety, TellTail and Delhi Police’s Himmat. Some of these, such as SAFER by Leaf Wearables, are even linked to smart jewellery and wearable devices. Ride-hailing apps like Uber and Ola also include a panic butto, which immediately alerts the local police and the passenger’s contacts.

Yet, the Indian government’s new measure will make emergency assistance available to a much bigger number of women and in a much more convenient way.