The increased awareness of crime near universities has lead many students to become wary of traveling alone on campuses. Unfortunately, most students keep late hours, making isolated nightly treks inevitable.
Luckily a new app has found a way to make the experience less stressful.
The Companion app, designed by five students at the University of Michigan who wished to combat crime on campuses, allows students to input their destination and the estimated amount of time it will take to walk there. Then, the user chooses someone from their contacts to monitor their journey.
The chosen contact will be sent a link that directs them to a website with an interactive map which virtually tracks the trip using the smartphone’s GPS. The app is free, which will make it accessible to anyone with a smartphone.
Co-founder Lexie Ernst told Global News, “We use the iPhone or Android’s built-in sensors to detect if somebody’s fallen or started running … When the app notices that change in movement, it then asks the user if they’re OK.”
The user has 15 seconds to respond, and if they fail to, their selected companions will immediately be notified. An alarm will then sound from the phone in hopes of deterring assailants. The app also has a ‘Call Police’ option at the bottom of the screen available for the entire journey.
While originally intended for college students, people worldwide are utilizing the app. Because the app uses GPS, it is effective for so much more than trips across campus. It can be used while going across the street, to the gym, the store, or sightseeing in a new city.
According to Global News, since its initial release in November, the app has been downloaded over 600,000 times. The creators are constantly looking for ways to improve their product and just last month they launched an enhanced version of the app.
One of the most notable features of Companion is the ‘I Feel Nervous’ button located at the bottom of the screen. If at any point during the trip the user feels anxious they can click the button, which will send an alert to their chosen contact.
The creators of Companion are collecting this data so that local authorities and campus police can identify where people feel unsafe. This knowledge will hopefully enhance security in these areas to make campuses and cities safer.
USF provides students with a free escort service called Safe Team, which runs from 6:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. However not everyone utilizes this service for various reasons, so an app like Companion is extremely beneficial for students. The fact that it can be used worldwide also enhances the demand, with many students using it while studying abroad or traveling.
The app’s creators told the Detroit Free Press, “they are focused on increasing the number of Companion users before attempting to monetize the app.” Once they have a substantial amount of data, they plan on selling the info to campus police and local authorities to produce revenue.
Co-founder Danny Freed said, “We’re not trying to just build a data collection app where in the background we’re pulling all this data and selling it off. We seriously want to solve this problem, and we want to solve it through data and we want to have these collaborative partnerships with public safety departments,” according to the Detroit Free Press.
The Companion app is a great tool that allows students to safely go from one destination to the other. Its popularity will hopefully only continue to grow as people become proactive in their safety.
Breanne Williams is a junior majoring in mass communications.