When you’re walking home alone, it’s normal to be afraid of things that go bump in the night.
Thanks to a new personal safety app, you might never have to walk home “alone” again. Companion lets friends or family members virtually accompany you on your journey home to ensure that you reach your destination safely.
After downloading Companion, available for free on iOS and Android, you can send out requests to selected people (even those who don’t have the app), who will receive a text message containing a hyperlink to an interactive map showing your progress. By sending out the link to several contacts, it helps to ensure that someone is available monitor your trip in the event that one person is away from their phone or otherwise occupied.
In addition to letting a friend track your progress home, Companion detects movements that might be danger signs: If you stray from the path, are pushed, fall down, start running, or even have your headphones yanked out, the app will automatically ask if you’re okay. If you don’t indicate that you’re fine within 15 seconds, the app transforms your phone into an alarm system, which puts out loud noises designed to scare off criminals. It also notifies your companion, giving them the option to immediately notify the police.
The app, designed by five students at the University of Michigan, was originally created to aid college students walking alone across campus. If you’re a student in the U.S. whose university has partnered with Companion, your university police will also be notified in the event that you call 911 via the app. The creators of the app are currently working with several big universities, and eventually hope to connect every campus police department with Companion, as well as local police departments and emergency responders.
However, many people outside of the context of American colleges have found Companion an extremely useful tool, according to one of the app’s cofounders, Lexie Ernst. “Both men and women from all demographics have emailed us saying they’d love to use the app,” Ernst told the International Business Times UK. “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.”
In addition to helping users the world over get home safely, Companion is also interested in gathering data about when, where, and why people feel most unsafe. The “I’m Nervous” feature allows users to indicate points in their journey when they feel uneasy. In the first week alone, they collected over 500 incidents where users felt unsafe on their walks at various universities. By using this data, Companion’s creators hope to provide campus safety departments with valuable info about areas that might be unsafe for students.
Whether you watch too many scary movies or genuinely live in an unsafe area, it’s good to know anyone who has a smartphone can have a “companion” to walk you home.