It’s no secret that the world isn’t as safe as it used to be. People don’t leave their doors unlocked, they hide their valuables at night, and they feel just a little uneasy as they walk down the street.
Well now, there’s a solution to the problem of walking home alone. It’s called the Companion App, a modern and technologically relevant way for you to stay safe with the help of your friends and family.
Here’s how it works:
The Companion App
The Companion App is free from the app store, and currently available for iPhone only. Once you’ve downloaded it, the app is very easy to use. All you need to do is type your destination into the app, and select how you’ll be getting there. Then, add either a friend or a family member to be your ‘companion’. They’ll be able to see how you’re travelling, and will be notified when you get to your destination safely.
The best part about the Companion App is that your virtual companions don’t need to have the app installed to be able to keep track of you. They’ll see how you’re getting on, and will be able to call you or the authorities if something goes wrong. From inside the app you can also reach out to them (or police) if you don’t feel safe. You can also tag certain areas along your route if they make you feel nervous. This information will be used by the Companion App to create zones of safety in the future.
The Companion App also has a feature called the Smart Trigger. Smart Triggers could be anything that indicate that something has gone wrong. This might be going away from their path, falling, starting to accelerate at speed, or having their headphones removed from the phone. The app is able to detect these changes, and will allow the user to confirm they are ok. If they do not confirm, the app turns your phone into an alarm system that makes loud noises and gives your companions a chance to call you or call the police.
Who Created Companion and Why?
The Companion App is the brainchild of five students from the University of Michigan, and it went from a concept to a published app in just a few months. Originally, the idea was to aid students walking home at night on college campuses. However, it quickly spread across America and now globally as people realise its potential to keep vulnerable people safe no matter where they happen to be.
It seems clear that the app will continue to spread, but the makers of Companion are still focused on bringing safety to university campuses. As such, they have promised to continue providing support for other users, while prioritising the experience of university students using the app. To do this, they will be working with the universities, providing up to date information about potentially unsafe areas of campus, as well as connecting campus security with people in need.
Does It Work In Australia?
Companion App was created to work in America, and so certain details are very U.S. specific, notably that the app will call 9-1-1 is the user is considered to be in danger. However, as the app’s popularity increases, the developers have noted that they are working hard to bring it to Australia with its full functionality.
At the moment, the app is available in the Australian app store, but some of the functionality may be limited or buggy. A recent update to the Australian version of the app notes that international phone numbers can now sign up with Companion, so long as they add their respective country codes to their phone number. Additionally, instead of calling police the phone will enter an ‘Alert Mode’ for international numbers.
What Are The Issues?
One of the main areas of concern that the app has raised among those who have both positively and negatively critiqued it is the potential for wasting police time. Obviously, there will be many situations in which police assistance may be absolutely required, but this is not always the case. As user numbers increase on Companion app it will be interesting to see how law enforcement responds to the app, and whether particularly in the case of college campuses, campus security can shoulder some of that weight. After all, the police are very busy people, and putting stress on the dispatchers by increasing call volume may lead to problematic circumstances.
However, even with this in mind the Companion App is still an amazing piece of modern technology that can be easily used to keep you safe when you’re out. The benefits for users are clear, and the potential for this one app to make a difference certainly makes it worth keeping an eye on.