The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) wants to give 20,000 of its staff a portable panic button for their phones or wearable devices.

News of the purchase emerged in an RFT (reg-walled) that called for the purchase of “a smartphone duress application to be made available to staff for monitored security and protection.”

“Duress applications” typically offer users features to rapidly report incidents that threaten their wellbeing to police and/or internal support teams. The apps can summon police, record video and otherwise communicate duress to sources of assistance. They’re widely used by organisations that send workers into the field

An ATO spokesperson told CRN it released the tender “to leverage opportunities to assist managing the general hazards and risks faced by a diverse and mobile workforce interacting with a wide variety of clients".

“A smartphone-based personal duress application is considered an effective tool for employees to seek prompt advice and assistance when challenged with a security or first aid issue in or away from our sites," the spokesperson said.

Whoever wins the deal will need to offer a product that runs on “wearable devices including but not limited to smart watches and

  • Bluetooth buttons;
  • GPS location positioning and geofencing;
  • Indoor positioning;
  • Mass messaging – push notifications, SMS and email;
  • Remote monitoring by a security monitoring centre; and
  • Internal monitoring by ATO security.

Tender documents reveal the agency wants “indoor positioning to an accuracy of within 10m".

"The ATO occupies approximately 359K m2 of office space across 22 sites in various states and territories.”

All of which adds up to an awful lot of places that ATO workers feel threatened, before we even consider the welcomes that tax staff may receive when they leave the office. No wonder the winning supplier will be required to work with the ATO’s “Physical Security Management Team”.

The app will also be pressed into service “to notify its employees quickly and effectively of events that may impact on their health and safety”.

The ATO has already conducted a pilot of this technology.

Australian ISVs look to be well-positioned to score the deal: the likes of ThreatProtect and Duress appear to offer a lot of what the ATO wants, while Telstra offers the latter in its marketplace according to this document (.doc).