Sexual assault and mugging aren’t fun topics to cover, but unfortunately they are still a sad part of the world that we live in. College campuses are a particularly bad combination of young people who are possibly unfamiliar with their location, and potentially unaware of their surroundings. This unfortunately provides ample opportunity for nefarious individuals to perpetrate any number of unpleasantries against their unwitting victims. A team of students at the University of Michigan hope to reverse this trend with their new app simply titled “Companion.”
Companion allows you to ping your contacts to request a virtual walk home. When you open the app, you’ll set your walking destination and choose friends to act as your virtual escort. Your friends will receive an SMS message with a link to Companion’s site, showing your path, along with an estimated time of arrival. They can then follow you along on your journey and will be notified if anything seems out of place.
Currently an alarm will be raised if the user strays off of their set path, is pushed, starts running, or has the headphones pulled from their device. If everything is actually ok, the user can call off the alarm by tapping a button in the app within 15 seconds. If no action is taken within 15 seconds the app will quite literally become an alarm, blaring loud noises in an attempt to scare off potential attackers and giving the user a quick way to contact the police. Options are available to also call campus security if you are using the app on your college campus.
If you aren’t in any immediate danger, but simply don’t feel quite right about your surroundings there’s an option in the app to note that you’re feeling nervous. Your location and the time will be logged and that information will be shared with local police departments in order to help better understand the feelings of citizens and students. Companion is available for both iOS and Android.
The developers are still working to improve and offer more features for safety. One popular suggestion has been to add a driving mode since there have also, unfortunately, been examples of taxi, Lyft, or Uber drivers assaulting passengers. The developers have stated that this is a possibility in the future, but the current iteration of the app is for walking trips only.
What do you think? Are you ever in a position where someone watching your back would be appreciated? Do you use Companion, and has it helped in any potentially bad situations? Let us know in the comments below or on your favorite social media site.