Friends don’t let friends walk home alone, and now they don’t have to, thanks to an ingenious new app called Companion that is finally addressing the much needed issue of late-night safety, particularly for solo women traversing the streets of campuses and cities alike. Tragic stories like that of Hannah Graham, the UVA student who disappeared almost exactly a year ago, are all too familiar, and now for the first time, technology is taking a concerted stand against such incidents. Companion, which “lets you reach out to family, friends, or your public safety department to have them keep an eye on you as you travel late at night,” is helping grant both men and women the freedom to go where they want, when they want, with a little bit more security.
Developed by five students at the University of Michigan, the free app, available on both iPhone and Android, allows others to keep an eye on you even if they’re not physically by your side. Danny Freed, a senior business student at the University and one of the app’s developers, told local news outlet mlive.com, “You can use the app with anyone in your contact book and they don’t have to have the app. You punch in the address or place you’re headed and notify one or several friends that you’re headed to that place.” Once your friends are aware of your intended destination, they’re able to keep tabs on your route — if you deviate too far from a familiar path, or it takes you longer than expected to arrive, your virtual companions are notified with an alert.
Freed continued, “The alerts will say something like ‘He’s off route, please check in with him,’ and if you don’t have the app there’s a live link to the Web version so it sends the message through an SMS push notification. If everything does go well and you get to your destination, it’ll automatically send a notification to the other person saying ‘He arrived safely.'” If, however, there’s no response from the weary and wary traveler, or perhaps a real emergency is taking place, Companion sets off alarms on the his or her phone, turning transforming it “into a personal alarm system that projects loud noises to scare criminals from the scene,” and further giving the user the opportunity to call the authorities.
Speaking with IBTimes U.K., Lexie Ernst, another Companion co-founder noted that the app has seen significant success, both at home and abroad. “We’ve had a lot of people outside the U.S. downloading the app,” she said. “Since we launched, we’ve had dozens of emails from people in the U.S., as well as many other countries like the U.K., Belgium, France, and Norway.” Better still, Companion has seen usage from both women and men, as well as people of all different ages.
Ernst continued, “Both men and women from all demographics have emailed us saying they’d love to use the app, lots of parents want to use the app for their children, and some people want their elderly parents to use it too to make sure they don’t get lost.”
It’s a simple idea that goes a long way to establishing not only the semblance, but the actual existence of heightened security for those going from Point A to Point B, a journey that can be fraught with more danger than we’d like to believe. So keep your friends company, guys — you don’t even have to be with them to do it.
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