A Telus ad circulating on social media for a security necklace is drawing criticism from the public and a criminologist for creating a false sense of security.
In the TikTok video, a young woman can be seen running through a city with the caption “take control of your safety. SmartWear Security connects you to your contacts and emergency services.”
The edited 50-second video shows the woman wearing a silver pendant necklace.
“I walk or use transit to get anywhere I need to go... With Telus SmartWear, I feel safer going out alone,” says the woman in the video. “It gives me that extra layer of security. If I need help, I can alert emergency services with a simple double click and my emergency contacts get notified, too.”
In an email to Glacier Media, a Telus spokesperson confirms SmartWear devices do not directly link to 911 emergency services.
"Customers can tailor their service so that a double-click of their device alerts up to five emergency contacts, and/or our 24/7 Telus monitoring team, where trained security agents assist our customers and if required, dispatch emergency services to their location," said the spokesperson. "This ensures important 911 services are appropriately contacted."
'Just a gimmick'
The comment section under the ad ranges from "I shouldn’t need this!” to “Is this healthy?”
“It’s giving dystopian nightmare,” wrote one TikToker.
Simon Fraser University professor Rob Gordon calls the SmartWear necklace overload.
“The cynic in me is crying out that this is just a gimmick, and a way of making money for Telus — and cashing in on the fear of crime, in my mind, is reprehensible,” he says.
The necklace costs $179 and can be paid on a 12-month payment plan of $14.92 a month, according to the Telus website.
Gordon believes it creates a false sense of security — and it’s better to use your brain and eyes, not technology, he tells Glacier Media.
“That's really unfortunate if that's the only way in which people can feel safe because they're not safe by wearing these things,” he says.
Gordon questions if the consumer is really getting any value or actual security. Instead, he recommends being aware of your surroundings.
“Doing all the normal crime prevention strategies and tactics that you would do before these, these gimmicks came along,” he says. "You can't really do better than your own consciousness about your surroundings and where you put yourself and where you don't put yourself and watching what's happening around you.”
Rise in ‘false’ 911 calls from technology
The Telus SmartWear necklace isn't connect to 911.
Devices from other providers that are connected are partially responsible for a rise in false calls, according to E-Comm, B.C.'s 911 dispatch service provider. Many of these false calls are being generated through new technology features and devices, including smartwatches, fall detection and emergency SOS.
E-Comm spokesperson Kaila Butler tells Glacier Media they don’t track the number of accidental calls because that would be an extra step for call takers to take when they need to get accidental callers off the line as quickly as possible.
When an accidental call is placed, the call taker has to confirm there is no emergency, which does take time.
“Accidents happen. We accidentally pocket-dial our moms, we can accidentally dial 911 just as easily,” she says.
The most important thing for callers to remember is to stay on the line.
“It's so natural to go to hang up, but that actually takes more time away from our call takers, because then they then have to call you back,” explains Butler.
Call takers will attempt a couple of callbacks, which is a "huge drain" on emergency services. Simply stay on the line and let the person on the other end know it was an accident.
Butler suggests people familiarize themselves with their technology and make adjustments if needed.
“Familiarize yourself with the functions, know how they work and know how they're going to work for you,” she says. “They really are great tools, especially to have in an emergency situation."
Some features can be turned off so accidental calls do not happen.
E-Comm confirmed with Glacier Media it is seeing more accidental calls related to emergency SOS features, smartwatches and new technology.
A letter was recently sent from Michel Murray of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to an Apple emergency systems strategist about the number of false positives from people’s crash detection service in Canada.
Watch Glacier Media's video story on the Telus security necklace here.