New app provides safety net for those who feel unsafe walking alone

New app provides safety net for those who feel unsafe walking alone

New app provides safety net for those who feel unsafe walking alone
September 11
22:06 2015

Kayleigh Bywater | Senior Staff Writer
@kayleighnic0le

Walking alone can be a nerve-wracking experience, and five college students at the University of Michigan are looking to relieve that fear with the Companion app.

The free Companion app, available for iPhone and Android, allows friends and family to virtually check on each other in a way that doesn’t involve texting or calling. It’s as easy as inputting a planned route and sending it to one or multiple contacts in one’s phone, ensuring a safe arrival at the destination.

Interior design senior Stephanie Montelongo said she saw ads and heard about the app but didn’t download it until she left the library around midnight one night.

“It barely took any time to get it going,” Montelongo said. “You logged in and put down basic information, like your name, gender and phone number. Then it asked if you would allow it access to features such as your location and contacts. From there, you choose who you want your companions to be, and then you head on your way.”

Although nothing happened on the walk from the library to her car, she said the app gave her a sense of peace and safety. She connected with one of her friends, converged broadcast media senior Priscilla Presley, who was able to see exactly where Montelongo was without having to install the app.

If something had happened to Montelongo, such as if she strayed off-path for some reason or her headphones were ripped from her phone, it would have sent a notification to Presley within 15 seconds, giving her the option to call police.

“UNT is pretty big, so if I am walking by myself, I can sometimes get pretty nervous,” Montelongo said. “Having my friend keep track of where I was, though, was kind of like someone was with me without physically being there. If something would have happened, she could have easily called the police and had them check on the situation.”

Presley said she was surprised at how well the app worked but felt some improvements could be made. Two buttons on the app read, “I feel nervous,” and, “Call police.” The first lets the companion know of the user’s status and anonymously shares it with the local police department so they can work on making the area safer.

“I feel like it pretty much just said, ‘the police may come at some point, but they may not,’” Presley said. “Instead, I feel that there should be pins dropped to areas where people have pressed that button. Like if there was an area that was not lighted very well, or somewhere that seems kind of sketchy, it would show that someone felt unsafe there so other people could try to avoid the area.”

Launched last month in August, the app is still working out a few design flaws.

“My ending location was in a parking lot, so it was kind of hard to set exactly where my stopping point was,” Montelongo said. “You would either have to be fantastic with street addresses or know the exact stopping point you are trying to reach. Other than that, though, everything seemed to flow well.”

Although some people only use the app every once in a while, early education junior Lisa Kramer said she uses Companion often on her way home from work.

“I get off work anywhere between midnight and 2 a.m., so walking to my car when it is really dark out is not always comforting,” Kramer said. “The app is helpful, though, because I can send my location to my boyfriend before I get off work, and he can ‘follow’ me home until I get to our apartment.”

Whether it’s resulted in any police-related ventures, the Companion app seems to be doing its job so far: providing a convenient way to keep late-night walkers feeling safe during their commutes home.

“Despite minor details, the app was simple to use and really put my mind at ease,” Montelongo said. “Even though a lot of people may be fine walking around by themselves, Companion would always be a great backup safety net to have, especially in those ‘what if’ situations.”

Featured Image: Courtesy | Companion App

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