Your phone’s a friend – focus on personal safety

By Jessica Thorpe on October 23, 2015

When night is closing in and you’re out alone after dark, it’s sensible to be aware of potential dangers. With October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, there is no better time than now to explore ways to secure personal safety, and a host of valuable mobile apps are making great strides in accomplishing just that.

Recognizing the importance of after-dark safety, students at the University of Michigan have come up with a clever app that can provide reassurance and maintain constant contact with people walking alone. Launched just a few weeks ago, Companion allows a person to ‘walk’ someone home remotely, utilizing GPS and sensors to track the route and that person’s activity. For instance, if a walker stops to remove headphones, Companion will alert the walker to check in and confirm he or she is safe, which is accomplished through the ‘I’m OK’ button.

However, if the app doesn’t hear from the lone walker within 15 seconds of an alert, Companion enables the remote monitor to call the police, as well as generate an audible alert on the walker’s phone. There are plans to incorporate fingerprint ID to the app, so only the lone walker can activate the ‘I’m OK’ button. What’s great is that virtually anyone can be a companion – the walker can simply text a link to the chosen contact so they can see the route being taken.

The app also enables users to report areas they feel could be made safer, and the developers will pass on the information to public safety agencies. With already having had thousands of downloads, Companion is evidently a solution that fills a market need and is a great example of how mobile communication is increasingly being used for personal safety applications.

Another example of a personal safety app is Kitestring. The app checks if you’re okay through a text message, and if you don’t reply, the app alerts your contacts. At the other end of the spectrum, Life360 is billed as ‘a complete awareness package’ in which you create private ‘Circles’ of your family and friends, and can see where each individual is at any given time. You can check in at any time and send messages to everyone in your Circle, or to specific individuals.

With Domestic Violence Awareness Month top of mind throughout the U.S., it’s important to note that the majority of domestic violence incidents take place within the home. Anyone who is a victim of this often-unreported crime needs to be on the alert at all times and have the ability to call for help – sometimes discreetly. Revolar is described by its creator as a ‘magic button’ that, once it’s pushed, uses Bluetooth to link to the Revolar app on your phone. The app will immediately send an SMS and/or email alert to your chosen contacts with a link to your location. The Revolar device can be hidden under clothing so it can be used without being noticed, which is critical in a situation where overt action can aggravate the danger.

If you would like to support victims of domestic violence, now’s the time to turn out your closets and look through the garage to find old cell phones, chargers, and various mobile devices and put them towards a good cause. Verizon’s HopeLine provides ways for individuals to take action by donating no-longer-used wireless phones and accessories in any condition from any service provider to benefit victims and survivors of domestic violence. Verizon turns these resources into support for domestic violence organizations and programs nationwide. Click here to learn more about Verizon’s HopeLine.