This is a snapshot listing the system requirements and a few of the highlighted features for the Companion Safety App mentioned in “Smart Personal Safety and Security.” It also complements “The Gift of Fear,” which discusses how to recognize potentially dangerous situations.
From Companion, LLC, this is a free application available for both Android and iOS. It was originally developed by five students at the University of Michigan and has really been taking off, particularly on college campuses.1 The current version from Google Play, 2.0.19, requires Android version 4.0 or higher. The current version on iTunes, 2.1.0, requires iOS 8.0 or later and is compatible with the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.
Companion features include the following:
- Invite some of your contacts to be personal guardians, or as the app refers to them, companions. You can invite as many contacts as you like to be companions for a particular event.
- Companion allows you to set your destination point and route, as well as an optional trip time, after which you can invite your guardians to virtually walk you home, or where ever your destination is. If you deviate from this route, your guardians will be notified. While the most flexible way to do this is to have Companion installed on their smart device, in the event that the invited guardian does not have the app, an SMS text message is sent to them containing a link to a live map showing your continually updated position.
- If one of several events occurs, such as you start to run, you yank your headphones (or other device) out of the headphone jack, you drop your phone, or simply don’t arrive at your destination within your allotted time, the system will contact you to confirm that you are okay. If you don’t respond within 15 seconds, an alert is sent to all of your companions. It will also generate a loud alarm and give you the option to contact the police with a single tap.
- If you happen to be in an area where something is making you nervous, tapping the I Feel Nervous button will pass this information along to your guardians, as well as to any associated organizations, such as corporate or campus security. Identifying clusters of these events will identify areas which might require increased security patrols or additional lighting.
- In an emergency, Companion allows you to contact the closest 911 dispatcher with just two taps.
As the motivation for developing this app was to make students feel more comfortable walking across university campuses as night, if the user dials 911, the app will simultaneously notify the relevant campus safety department. Of course this feature is only relevant to organizations that have signed up to work with Companion.
1. Russon, M.-A. Campanion app surging in popularity – Business Insider. Business Insider (2015). www.businessinsider.com/campanion-app-surging-in-popularity-2015-9
John Joyce is a laboratory informatics specialist based in Richmond, VA. He may be reached at editor@ScientificComputing.com.