Back in October 2011, Apple unveiled the iPhone 4S. By all accounts, the 4S was a pretty popular phone; it sold four million units in the first four days of retail availability, and helped Apple to consolidate its place at the forefront of technological innovation.
One of the reasons the iPhone 4S did so well was the introduction of Siri, the first of its kind, and a pioneer for voice assistants in contemporary use. Nowadays, Siri has made the jump to iPad and Mac devices, and whether you’re wondering about the sports scores or you’re too lazy to use your thumbs, Siri has revolutionised the way we communicate with our personal devices.
One of my favourite things to do in the long and lonely winter nights is attempt to have a conversation with Siri. Artificial intelligence hasn’t quite evolved to the point where you can exchange Knight Rider-style witty banter with a machine, but if you’re interested in terrible jokes or the current time in Buenos Aires, Siri can be a passable substitute for human interaction. One thing you should never do however, is say “108” to Siri.
On the internet, there are plenty of examples of the entertaining things you can do with Siri. The programmers behind the voice assistant imparted a sense of humour to their creation and there are plenty of amusing built-in responses. If you were to say “108” to your Siri assistant however, the response you’d receive would be far from whimsical.
In the midst of all that computer-generated banter, it’s quite easy to forget that Siri was designed as an enhancement for the iPhone and, as such, can actually be used to make phone calls, including phone calls to emergency services. In the United Kingdom, the number for emergency services is 999, while in the United States, you would use 911. In India, 108 is the emergency number and so when you say 108 to Siri, your iPhone will immediately call emergency services.
This is a useful tool if you’ve encountered an emergency and are looking to call for help as soon as possible. But intentionally calling the emergency services without a present emergency is a federal offence, and can land you a fine, or even jail time. A 19-year-old called Zachary Lee Morgenstern found this out the hard way in 2015, when he pleaded guilty to calling in several hoax bomb threats in Ohio, Minnesota and Massachusetts. Needless to say, actually calling in a fake threat is far more serious than just ringing the number. Zachary Lee Morgenstern was sentenced to 41 months in prison as a result.
As you might expect, Apple CEO Tim Cook is actually rather fond of Siri and recently had this to say about it. “When I say ‘good morning’ to Siri, my house lights come on and my coffee starts brewing,” Cook explains. Furthermore, he goes on, “a simple tap on my iPhone turns the lights off, adjusts the thermostat down, and locks the doors.”
I wonder if he’s got anything to say about this issue though? Let’s have a look – here’s the full quote.
“I’m personally using HomeKit accessories and the Home app to integrate iOS into my home routine. Now when I say good morning to Siri, my house lights come on and my coffee starts brewing. When I go to the living room to relax in the evening, I use Siri to adjust the lighting and turn on the fireplace. And when I leave the house, a simple tap on my iPhone turns the lights off, adjusts the thermostat down, and locks the doors. When I return to my house in the evening, as I near my home, the house prepares itself for my arrival automatically by using a simple geofence. This level of home automation was unimaginable just a few years ago, and it’s here today with iOS and HomeKit.”
Even if you’ve called a dispatcher accidentally, it’s important to remember that there are a number of emergencies going on at any given time and by occupying the line, you could be inadvertently standing in the way of somebody else who genuinely needs help. Siri can be a lot of fun if you know what you’re doing, but it’s worth remembering that a phone is still a phone, no matter how many cool add-ons it has.