Please note – the views in the following feature are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by Safe Travels Magazine. Before travel, we recommend that you always do your own research, read travel advisories and buy appropriate travel insurance.

Colin Dale,  Director of Business Development at Vismo Global Tracking Solutions

Twitter: @Vismo_Ltd


Colin Dale is Business Development Director for Vismo Global Tracking Solutions. For the past 30 years he has worked with mobile and satellite operators including T-Mobile in the International Roaming field. He has a degree in telecommunications from Liverpool University and is currently studying international terrorism at St Andrews University.

Making travel safer via smartphones and satellite phones: what can travellers do to minimise personal risk in an at-risk world?

Colin Dale,  Director, Business Development, Vismo Global Tracking Solutions,  reports. 

The old adage “Nowhere is safe” hit the headlines in 2016 after terrorist attacks in Nice, Istanbul and Berlin (and elsewhere, from the US  the Far East) killed and maimed many, but in the cold light of day it’s not an accurate description and, as we know, “ordinary” day-to-day life ultimately carries on more or less where it left off.

That is not to downplay the effects on individuals (and their family and friends) of an incident, but “nowhere is safe” typically applies only to known high at-risk areas – and “grey spots” such as cities, airports and night clubs etc, where the risk might be low but at attack can happen nonetheless.

It may be safer to holiday in Brighton than Berlin, New Mexico than Nice, or Irkutsk than Istanbul, but getting there might pose risks, minimal though they will tend to be unless an incident happens.

Wherever we go, threats to life and limb can be modified thanks to precautions we can take, including the use of smartphone and satellite tracking technology. A number of offerings on the market provide varying degrees of advice, direct help and highly accurate co-ordinates for assistance with emergency evacuations or the rescue of individuals and groups.

At the top end of the offerings are global tracking solutions. They truly cover the entire globe, and not only where there is a mobile phone signal. If you are serious about minimising risks, these are the solutions to look at, with an emphasis on location accuracy and battery life. There should also be a focus on high level support via remote security centres that is activated the moment a user presses a “panic button” on their phone.

What to look for

– Does the solution you are considering work anywhere in the world? It should operate on GSM, 3G, CDMA and WCDMA networks – and on a satellite phone if you are going very remote i.e. where there are no cellular networks.

– Does it correlate a location highly accurately and conserve battery life? Location accuracy can be vital to the success of an attempted rescue from fire or kidnap/hostage-taking/terrorist incident, for example. Apps need to find a balance between the amount of data sent and the impact on battery life. Colin says, “This is something that is crucial to users. Maintaining battery life, and that connection to the response team, can make the difference between life and death.”

–  What happens when you press an app’s panic button? With a low spec app you might simply get a response via a social network, showing your approximate location. While that can have its uses, your app should ideally give your exact location (immediately) to a remote security centre while also sending covert audio recordings to it – and receive advice on what you should do or not do to minimise risk to yourself.

– Will information gathered by your app and the security centre be fed into mapping solutions used by the emergency services, to be used to help you if need be? Again, ideally, that should be the case.  Also, the provider of the app should ensure you are helped even if you haven’t activated a panic button.  by alerting you to any incident that might, or certainly will, affect you, and give you advice that will safeguard you as much as possible.

– Will the solution have geofencing capabilities that can significantly reduce threats to life and limb? Geofencing is another feature of the more sophisticated approach to global/personal tracking. If users create clearly defined geographic “at risk” areas via the app, they will be advised (by SMS) immediately they enter and leave an area.

– Will it allow the user, via a check-in facility in the app, to register their arrival and departure to/from a predetermined location?  That, too, can be very useful.

– Is it proven in the field? Look for solutions whose users include UN agencies and media companies in high risk areas, blue chip corporations – and organisations involved in particularly sensitive negotiations and actions.

In one extraordinary use of the app, the Vismo app was involved in the handover by ISIS of the hostage Daniel Rye Ottosen in 2014. Danish photojournalist Ottosen was held by ISIS for more than a year until his release in Syria. Members of the team that met him at the handover and led him to safety had the app on their phones as a safety precaution.

In Iraq it helped to locate a missing journalist after an attack on an election rally, via a remote security centre that her app was automatically linked to.

For most of us…

For most people travelling the globe, the risks from an attack will range from zero to high, depending on where they are.  Taking as much personal responsibility as possible for ourselves will reduce any risk. The latest in phone – smart and satellite – people tracking technology offers a proven way to help keep us safe and was used by people during attacks in Paris, Nice, Berlin and Brussels and in Tunisia during the attack on a beach resort in 2015.

About Vismo

Vismo Global Tracking Solutions was founded in York in 2012 by Cellhire plc, specialists in voice and data mobile communications since 1987. Vismo’s GPS-based, patented technology global tracking app identifies users’ precise location when they press a panic button on their phone. That action triggers support that’s geared to assisting them as rapidly as possible. The app is typically used as part of an organisation’s duty of care towards its employees/volunteers in high risk areas and other places [e.g. cities] where a terrorist or other incident may occur.   The app is on the smartphones and satellite phones of key staff of many FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 companies, and NGOs/media organisations. It is also used by consumers  and travellers in remote and high risk regions, as well as by commuters in the UK, Europe and elsewhere. More information at

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