back to article Punch-drunk Apple Watch called 15 cops to a boxing workout when it heard 'shots'

An Australian personal trainer's Apple Watch inadvertently summoned 15 police to a suspected shooting that was nothing of the sort. Sydney man Jamie Alleyne was running a boxing class, with a client punching away at pads on his hands. As the client pounded the pads, sufficient force was imparted to activate Apple's Siri voice …

  1. James O'Shea

    Hey, Siri

    Fuck right off. Do it now.

    Note that Siri is disabled on every Apple device I have. Cortona was disabled on Microsoft devices. I don’t own any Amazon or Google voice assistant devices.

    Die, Siri, die. And take all your little friends with you.

    1. chivo243 Silver badge
      Go

      Re: Hey, Siri

      I regret that I only have one upvote to give!

      I could not have said it better! I do exactly the same things!

      I have a friend who is constantly asking* Siri this and that... not for me brother!

      Too lazy to type!

      1. Snake Silver badge

        Re: Hey, Siri

        Remind your lazy friend that every time he asks Siri to do something for him the corporations behind the request(s) add that activity to his personal life history profile.

        Thanks to his insistence on using Siri, plus his credit card and location / Google Maps histories, they know about as much as he does about his everyday life. They know where he usually is, and when, plus what he will probably do once he is there (make purchases, get things done that Siri had previously assisted with, etc etc).

        -------------------------------------------

        If that doesn't give pause for thought from the fool, I don't know what will.

        1. Emir Al Weeq

          Re: Hey, Siri

          I've almost* given up trying to tell people that. I inevitably get a reply along the lines of "So what? My life is not that interesting."

          They don't realise that we all have different ideas about what's interesting. With this sort of attitude so prevalent, it's only going to get worse.

          *If I had no children whose future I care for, I would give up.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Hey, Siri

            "They don't realise that we all have different ideas about what's interesting. With this sort of attitude so prevalent, it's only going to get worse."

            If he also has an Apple watch, tell him the motion sensors can report all sorts of stuff back to Apple HQ, such as how often he wanks, how long for and how "enthusiastic" his performance was and, thanks to various web tracking, not only which porn site he was on at the time but even what video clip he was watching.

            1. RockBurner

              Re: Hey, Siri

              https://xkcd.com/1807/

        2. Evil Auditor Silver badge

          Re: Hey, Siri

          If that doesn't give pause for thought from the fool, I don't know what will.

          I gave up ever since I was paying at supermarket till with a colleague and, knowing him to be a loyalty card guy, ask him whether he wanted to collect the points from my groceries. His answer: "no, that would mess up my records". Didn't know what to say to that.

      2. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Re: Hey, Siri

        A non techie colleague admitted to having a smart speaker in his bedroom when we went round the office quizzing the office about in-home technology at the end of last year. Those of us with an idea of how these things work tried to dissuade him from doing so. He said that it was so convenient to be able to tell it to play Radio 4 so they could listen to the Today show whilst lying there. I said as opposed to an AM/FM radio which you leave tuned to Radio 4 and just press the button? He didn’t have much of an answer to that sadly.

        1. Nifty Silver badge

          Re: Hey, Siri

          If you want to know the reason for the downvote, for those who have their own bedroom/shed/workshop it's the only place that conversations are unlikely to be overheard.

          As it happens I have an internet enabled radio in the home office atm but acknowledge that a smart speaker may take over when that becomes obsolete. My Echo has a mic off button with a red LED confirming it. That's just about acceptable for the dining room.

          And... I'm still waiting for any kind of decent in car voice assistant that offers a blend of privacy and the simple ability so summon any online radio station.

          1. YetAnotherLocksmith Silver badge

            Re: Hey, Siri

            So you think it's great having to click the switch to turn the microphone on, then say "play radio 4", rather than just press one button to get radio 4 on the radio?

            Funny.

            1. Nifty Silver badge

              Re: Hey, Siri

              Well, Mister Point, I happily keep the mic switched on if I'm on my own in a space. And I wonder how many of the downvoters allow Siri or Google Assistant to stay on their phones (I don't).

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Hey, Siri

            "My Echo has a mic off button with a red LED confirming it."

            Doesn't defeat the primary reason for having a voice controlled assistant

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hey, Siri

          I guess if the other person’s colleague wanted to listen to something he couldn’t get on the radio in his local area then that’s understandable.Radio 4 less comprehensible to me though. I’d rather not have one of these speaker things in my gaff especially not my bedroom. Suppose everyone’s different though and he doesn’t mind having an internet connected microphone in his bedroom then that’s up to him.

    2. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Hey, Siri

      Yup. Fuck Siri. If I'm going to have to put up with an automated assistant, I'll go with Megan thanks. Very loyal, just don't piss her off.

      1. Martin-73 Silver badge

        Re: Hey, Siri

        colleague uses an apple watch, and siri is constantly interrupting with 'i'm sorry i didn't get that'... I've learned to say 'siri, shut the fuck up'

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Hey, Siri

          So why is it even listening without the "wake" command? Or does Siri commonly mistake "sorry" for its wake command? Something I'd not be very surprised at and commented on when Siri was first announced to the world.

          1. logicalextreme

            Re: Hey, Siri

            AFAIK these devices always have to be listening (or the wake command wouldn't work), and store the last x seconds on a buffer which may be useful for the forthcoming command — imagine a 30-second piece of music is playing on a TV show and after 20 seconds you wake the device up and ask what the music is. If it only started doing its music detection on the sound that occurs after you've issued the command, you might only capture a couple of seconds of music and not get a match. If it's got a 40-second buffer, it can utilise that to get you a match.

            The inevitable happens, of course — it's an internet-connected device that's listening constantly, and that buffer ends up being relayed to places it shouldn't, whether by design or by error.

            I'm not averse to the general idea of the things and they must be an absolute godsend for people with various disabilities, but the only way I'd ever have one is if it was on a device that I owned the keys to, running open-source software locked down to only the features I required.

          2. Martin-73 Silver badge

            Re: Hey, Siri

            how would it hear the 'wake' command without constantly listening? It seems it interprets random noises (including on one occasion a fart) as a wake command...

    3. ChoHag Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Hey, Siri

      They already have your money. You not using the device that they can't find a way to monetise is not going to upset them, although it might reduce their costs.

      1. ChoHag Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Hey, Siri

        So this is the reg's readership now eh?

        "Fuck you apple" *from apple's paying customers* gets applauded (Go you! Shove it to the man! Fuck capitalism!) while the reminder that they are, indeed, apple's *paying customers* upsets people?

        Tough titties. You made your bed now climb on and bend over.

        Double fail.

    4. Roger Kynaston

      Time to channel Malcolm Tucker

      Hey Siri!

      Fuck the fuck off! Then fuck off some more and when you have fucked off stay the fuck fucked off!

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hey, Siri

      I have Google and Mrs AC has Apple

      The only good thing was when I accidently said "Hey Google" to Siri and I had a "I'm not that type of asssitant" back.

      Apart from that 5 min wonder if it worked.

      I do have a Kia Picanto that does have basic voice recognition that links to the phone by BT, I press the button on the steering wheel, say "call Mrs AC at home" and it works on Apple or Andriod phones. Not sure how it works, whether it's the car or the phone that is doing the work.

      Can't do "play Radio 4" though, have to say "radio" followed by "preset 4"

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: Hey, Siri

        "Apart from that 5 min wonder if it worked."

        This is it. I had an original iPad Mini which didn't have GPS. It seems that a lot of Siri stuff fails in the absence of GPS and there's no alternative way to provide a location.

        Siri, what's the weather forecast?

        I don't know where you are.

        I'm at Xyzzy.

        I do not understand.

        My coordinates are XX north and YY west.

        I do not understand.

        Etc.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hey, Siri

          Last time I used Google Maps (maybe a year or so ago) I asked for the nearest Marks and Spencer's and, presumably because I had told it not to track my location, it would only offer sites near my home address despite the fact I was at that very moment using Google Maps to navigate and was hundreds of klicks away.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Hey, Siri

        "Not sure how it works, whether it's the car or the phone that is doing the work."

        It's the car doing the work. If you check the manual, you should find you can also change the audio source, radio band and stations too. Also a Kia owner. I only use the voice recognition for the phone too. The radio stations and audio source is easier to do by pressing the buttons since I know where they are by feel and that's quicker for me.

        (Did you know the radio also has 2GB of storage for MP3 files? Handy for keeping your favourite stuff and just use the USB for the ever changing stuff. In my case, music in the storage, audio books on USB stick)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hey, Siri

          Yes, copied a lot of my golden oldies to it, thanks!

    6. 43300 Silver badge

      Re: Hey, Siri

      Microsoft's Cuntana seems to be taking more of a back seat these days - presumably it wasn't proving very effective at collecting data?

    7. Lil Endian Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Hey, Siri

      The only good thing about Siri is that it allowed Koothrappali a romantic relationship, until his nightmare that is!

      The Kripke interaction is pure gold, respect to Bowie:

      I'm sorry, Bawwy. I don't understand "wecommend a westauwant".

  2. devin3782

    This is the problem with using sensors to try to work out if one is in peril or not, they lack context for what the owner is currently doing. Also you know that apple doesn't have three of each sensor (which, yes, is partially down to the space constraints), so the software will always trust the sensor is giving a correct reading.

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      It's really about getting people accustomed to be around all sorts of listening devices "for their own good".

      Imagine that decades ago people were paranoid that government is listening to what they say. Now they will be worried if government is not.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      re: problem with using sensors to try to work out if one is in peril or not

      We used to have lone worker alarms which trigger if you lie immobile for long enough

      But we also had meetings with PowerPoint

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: re: problem with using sensors to try to work out if one is in peril or not

        Have had to work with those. What a giant pain in the rear those things.... (They were fine when actively wrenching on stuff most of the time, but I've also had jobs where I'd be spending an hour in a confined space under a machine swapping out parts and required to wear a man-down alarm. Constantly having to reach down and silence the warning every few minutes gets old really fast. When doing the administrative work sitting at a computer/desk though... My god those things suck.)

  3. b0llchit Silver badge
    Mushroom

    The bill

    I assume that the bill for this whole fiasco has been dispatched to Apple?

    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      Re: The bill

      There will be some sort of term or condition where by Apple explicitly say that any activity that causes a sensor to go off, and you're not in danger, as a prohibited activity and ergo take a long walk off a short pier.

      1. b0llchit Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: The bill

        Yes, that are conditions for the person who bought the device.

        However, the police and emergency services are not bound by that contract. They can simply argue that Apple is the responsible party for causing a stir and send them a bill. It was not the user who alarmed the authorities, but it was Apple who did so.

        1. wolfetone Silver badge

          Re: The bill

          But then Apple will be like "But sir, we're not the ones actually setting the device off. You wouldn't take Ford to court for a drunk driver, would you?".

          1. b0llchit Silver badge

            Re: The bill

            No, but you could take them to court when the car calls the emergency services for no good reason. It is simply a "defective product". If not the owner, then the police/emergency services will have a serious problem with the manufacturer and will take the appropriate steps.

            1. Martin-73 Silver badge

              Re: The bill

              Not just apple... my android phone decided to randomly dial 112 the other morning, and the 'cancel call' feature did not work

              1. Martin-73 Silver badge

                Re: The bill

                YAY i have a random downvoter... [offers hug, welcome aboard]

    2. Dave 126

      Re: The bill

      > I assume that the bill for this whole fiasco has been dispatched to Apple?

      Why? It was most likely human officers who heard the audio from the gym and made the decision to send what they saw as an appropriate response, given the information before them.

      Accidental calls and prank calls to emergency services have occurred for as long as there have been telephones. So have misunderstandings. People and systems adapt.

      The general doctrine of making it easy to call emergency services was arrived by our societies, not by any single company. It's even mandatory for all mobile phones to let you call emergency services without unlocking the phone. Has this decision led to accidental calls? Undoubtedly. Has it also allowed genuine calls that led to lives bring saved? Also undoubtedly.

      What is the exact balance? Difficult to answer without a philosopher, an economist and a statistician walking into a bar.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: The bill

        "Why? It was most likely human officers who heard the audio from the gym and made the decision to send what they saw as an appropriate response, given the information before them."

        From the article, it is implied that Siri "heard" the words one one two, multiple utterances of "shot" and some "bangs" from gloves hitting the trainers pads and took it upon itself to call the emergency services. The article doesn't mention if it just dialled 1-1-2 and connected the audio to whoever picked up or if it just reported in it's own voice what it "thought" was happening.

        I'm not sure how that could work in the UK, with either method. Calls to 999 are picked up by the emergency service operation centre and the first thing they do is as "Which service do you require" at which point you are expected to state Police, Fire Ambulance or Coast Guard. They do have procedures for "silent" calls and/or special code words. I'm not sure what they might do if Apples Siri calls them.

  4. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Brave New World

    In not so distant future:

    A watch called 15 cops to a boxing workout when it heard 'Government is stealing money'.

    It will be common thing to say "oh Steve got watched last night" - as in "swatted".

    1. MrDamage Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Brave New World

      Something something Watch list..

      I'll get my coat.

    2. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Brave New World

      But who watches the watches?

      1. b0llchit Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Brave New World

        They are timely watched using the handles when pointing at opposite directions.

      2. 43300 Silver badge

        Re: Brave New World

        "But who watches the watches?"

        Apple, Google, and lots of 3-letter agencies!

    3. YetAnotherLocksmith Silver badge

      Re: Brave New World

      Definitely won't be doing that in the UK. All those tory ministers swatting themselves! It would be a waste of police time, since they never actually take action against them.

      1. logicalextreme

        Re: Brave New World

        I dunno, even a PM can own goal themselves. You reap what you sow, etc.

  5. abstract

    Well, this proves that the thing works. Apple is probably happy with the news

    1. iron Silver badge

      False positive = thing does not work

      1. logicalextreme

        False positive = thing is working maybe a bit too well

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    confused

    So I'm unclear on what exactly happened.

    Did Siri hear impact noises and call emergency services of her own volition and essentally say "hi, police? I'm a smartwatch and I think my owner is being shot at".

    Or, did Siri hear the owner call out a number combo, incorrectly interpreted that to be a request to place a phone call to emergency services, who then overheard muffled bangs and the term "nice shot" and concluded a shooting was ongoing?

    Apple has good intentions with their automatic call for help, but poor implementation. Case in point, a recent article about Michigan police getting iThings calling about car crashes. The iThings are getting confused by people wearing them on snowmobile rides. Ok, sure, a rough snowmobile ride may have G forces similar to a car crash (from the phone's perspective), but hey Apple, if the phone is still moving down a trail at high speed, you didn't just have a car accident!

    1. Elongated Muskrat Silver badge

      Re: confused

      If the phone is moving down a hillside at fast speed, and bumping around all over the place, and the user is in a car, then they almost certainly are having an accident. Think going over the edge of a mountain pass and tumbling down a mountainside, a not-unheard of occurrence in mountainous countries.

      The problem here is that Apple have sold this as a "feature" when the device really isn't gathering sufficient data to determine what is happening at all. It doesn't know if you're in a car, on a roller coaster, or if your unconscious body is being carried off by a mountain lion. It's the old trick of using fear to sell (just like all those awful TV ads for alarm systems, with people supposedly sitting and watching CCTV footage on their phone rather than doing literally anything else with their life). It's a case of "this could happen, and our device will save you" but such a flawed implementation and overstated use case that they may as well be selling insurance against being eaten by a fire-breathing dragon.

    2. Frank Bitterlich

      Re: confused

      If you read the article carefully, it says that the owner's wrist pressed on the watch (holding down the crown button on the side activates Siri.) The watch tried to understand what was said and apparently the only part it could understand was "1-1-2" and so it assumed it was a number to be called. So it did.

      Reading the original article, it says (quoting the watch owner) “The button is on the side of the watch and if it is pressed down for long enough, Siri is activated and in that time I must have yelled out ‘1-1-2’, it called emergency and they heard the impact of the pads and me saying ‘good shot’ or ‘nice shot’."

      So the misunderstanding was on the side of the police disptacher, it was not Siri that tried to interpret what was happening.

      Basically, it was a classic case of butt-dialling police (although with voice recognition instead of an actual butt).

      But never waste an opportunity to blame it on the evil empire aka Apple.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: confused

        "The watch tried to understand what was said and apparently the only part it could understand was "1-1-2" and so it assumed it was a number to be called. So it did."

        That's actually quite an assumption, but not something I'm surprised by given the current state of so-called "helper features" in general software today. If it was me, I'd not assume a "heard" number was a phone number since few people ever actually use phone numbers these days. I'd expect a call to the emergence services to be something like "Call 112" or "Call Police" etc. Specifically the the word "Call" to specify what the number/name/word following means in context.

        1. Frank Bitterlich

          Re: confused

          Well, when you press and hold the Siri button on a Siri-enabled device and speak a number that is a valid phone number, Siri assumes you want to call it. I think that's a sensible assumption (which my last flipphone with "voice recognition" from a few decades ago (was it a Razr? Don't remember) handled in exctly the same way, without involvement of any Siri or Alexa or Whatever.)

          To me, the whole thing is a non-story. Dude accidentally presses the voice recog button on his smart watch (happens, I don't know, maybe a million times a day), and for once, it did not understand "call mom" but "call 112". Cops don't get a response from the caller, listen a bit, and hear stuff like "good shot" and whetever else. Decide to check what's up there and show up in numbers (I won't comment on whether that's a sensible approach or not, as I honestly don't know.)

          If it's a toddler who gets their hand on a phone and accidentally calls the emergency number, nobody would have reported this here. But, hey, "Siri." So it must have some kind of "evil tech" angle.

          To downvote, click here.

          |

          V

  7. genghis_uk
    Mushroom

    Swatted

    Lucky this was in Aus - in certain parts of the US, this would have been an excuse to break out the heavy artillery

    1. Lusty

      Re: Swatted

      Don’t worry I’m sure our US cousins found someone else to shoot that day. Statistically speaking they probably found quite a few.

  8. The commentard formerly known as Mister_C

    WOLF

    I'm old enough to remember a story about a shepherd boy who got bored and realised that by shouting "wolf" he could get his family to come and visit him. Lots of times. Then a wolf attacked his sheep and nobody responded to his warning cries.

    Anybody like to place a bet that we'll see a news story in the near future about an accident that was reported by a smart device that didn't get a response?

    1. YetAnotherLocksmith Silver badge

      Re: WOLF

      Then it's be exactly the same as the hundreds of burglar alarms and tens of thousands of car alarms ignored every single day.

  9. jdiebdhidbsusbvwbsidnsoskebid Silver badge

    Who's most to blame here?

    I don't know what I'm most bothered about: That consumer electronics are able to autonomously summon emergency services like that and get it so wrong, or that the emergency services actually respond to such requests from a jumped up little watch that thinks it knows best.

    I suspect the emergency services are duty bound to respond to any call, regardless of how spurious they at first think it is. I'm which case I wonder if anyone from government is working with Apple etc. to understand how reliable their emergency call system really is.

    It only takes one story of how something like this saved someone's life to show how useful it could be, but that has to be traded off against the false alarm rate, how often (if at all) the emergency services are distracted from genuine cases and the consequences of that.

    1. Kieran

      Re: Who's most to blame here?

      Similar tech has saved people's lives, and the Sherriff described it as 'extremely useful'.

      https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-12-15/angeles-national-forest-canyon-rescue-iphone-satellite-feature

      In the particular case of this boxer, it's really not clear exactly what happened but it sounds like the Watch made an emergency call, and it was the dispatchers on the other end who reacted. It doesn't take a huge leap to imagine a similar freak occurrence where a candy bar phone in someone's pocket gets repeatedly buffeted on the 9 key, and the dispatchers hear something alarming. Right?

  10. Sam Jelfs

    I have a Garmin watch for running that has a "fall / crash" detection feature, which does similar in that if it detects shocks above a certain threshold it will give an alarm and if you don't clear the alarm within 30 seconds will trigger an emergency message to some designated contacts.

    I have it turned off after some false triggers while intentionally throwing myself down some rough trails.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wow a Police response!

    In my rural UK county (roughly 2,500 km²) there are 4 Police Officers (covering 2 shifts) for the rural areas (more in the towns). Except when there is anything going on in the towns; i.e. Bank Holidays, Friday nights, etc. Then the rural officers are also called into town!

    The rural officers will freely admit to this, but the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (politician who gets elected in a vote that single figure percentage of population take part in) just spouts bo**ocks and will not answer questions about it. He just boasts about all the Police and civilian staff he has. That's 5 times more than the 1950's when there was a Bobby lived in the Police House in each village and policing was personal!

    Lambs are being strung up in trees and butchered using Halal techniques in the fields in front of the rest of the flock. The farmers ring the Police and are told that "no-one is available at the moment. Please note down this scene of crime number. And don't challenge them with your shotgun."

    One lot did get caught though. The farmer let down all the tires on their refrigerated van. The stupid sods rang that in as a racially motivated crime and a rapid response unit was sent from the town. (Yes, that is a priority set by the PFCC.) The farmer gave himself up to the Police and asked them to look into the back of the van!

    UK Police under PFCC/PCC directorship are just not fit for purpose!

    Let the Police get on with their jobs and politicians f*ck-off!

    1. ragnar

      Re: Wow a Police response!

      Link please?

  12. moonhaus

    "like "1-1-2" – an emergency telephone number."

    "AN"? You mean the 112 number that is litterally THE emergency phone number for most of the world?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      ""AN"? You mean the 112 number that is litterally THE emergency phone number for most of the world?"

      Many parts of the world had standardised emergency phone numbers before 112 was "invented" and popularised, so some other countries adopted it as an alternative to their existing system so tourists and people brought up on foreign TV and films can also get the service.

      I just checked on Wikipedia and they seem to have a quite comprehensive explanation of it, it's origins and where it works

  13. Binraider Silver badge

    I've noted this before on non-apple hardware. Phone decided to call the emergency services while on a rollercoaster...

    "Screaming and loud noises in background".

    I had a call afterwards from said services querying the unintended call; to which obviously one can only apologise for wasting their time. It does make me wonder what degree of false positives are being triggered for all of the well-intended functionality; and are the services geared up to take the extra volume? (No!)

  14. wallyhall

    Essentially a pocket dial?

    I'm not seeking to "rebalance" any upvotes for "getting rid of Siri" - (I too share a very serious dislike of anything other than human beings - and sometimes even those - listening and attempting to respond to anything less than my explicit keyed instruction) - but this sounds like nothing more than a 2023 pocket dial?

    The watch was inadvertently triggered into ringing the emergency services, who (according to/implied by the linked article) "overheard what they [humans] thought was a situation involving guns".

    Siri did nothing more than dial the emergency services based on an inadvertent request to dial that precise number.

    I inadvertently dialled 999 a number of times on my old Nokia 3310 ... guess this is the 2023 equivalent?

    (Again, I am not seeking to remark positively toward features such as voice command/"AI" or detecting car crashes or anything else. Merely the "modern equivalence" of something which has plagued us since mobile phones began.)

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