As the days start to get shorter (sob) and we realize some of us will soon be heading home from work or walking around a college campus in the dark at just 5PM, it’s nice to know that walking home alone just got a lot less nerve-wracking. Thanks to five University of Michigan students, you can now download the new Companion app, a really cool — and needed — personal safety tool that lets friends or family walk with you, virtually, and track your journey home via GPS on an online map.
So smart, right? And definitely super useful, especially because Companion can be used with anyone in your contacts; they don’t even need to have the app installed. And I’m sure it will make a lot of us feel better about our kids walking home alone safely too.
Here’s how it works: You plug your destination into the app and send out requests to folks in your phone contacts list, adding them as companions (get it?) for your journey home. I’d suggest you try a few contacts at once in case people are not by their phones.
Those you’ve reached out to will get a text message with a hyperlink to an interactive map that shows you walking to your destination, so they can track you and see that you’ve arrived safely.
Kind of like sharing a Waze journey. Only by foot.
Now, here’s where Companion app’s personal safety features really come into play: The app sends you periodic Are You Okay? alerts. You have 15 seconds to press the large green YES button. If you don’t respond in that time, the app immediately notifies your selected companions.
There’s also a big, red Call Police button that will reach out to 911 with just two taps. And if you stray off your path, start running, or your headphones are suddenly pulled out of your phone, Companion app remarkably detects the change in your movement and sends you an Are you Okay? query and starts that 15-second countdown. Without a Yes confirmation from you, an alert will automatically go out to your companions who can then call 911 or notify campus police.
One more benefit of the app, specifically for college students, is the “I Feel Nervous” button. If you’re walking at school and feel uneasy about the area, just press the button and the app will anonymously send info about your location to the campus police department, who will, the app claims, increase efforts to make the area safer.