EDMONTON — It started out as an attempt to make university campuses safer. Now, roughly 600,000 people around the world have downloaded the Companion app.
“At the time we were all students at the University of Michigan,” said co-founder Lexie Ernst. “We all knew that there needed to be a safety solution on campus because crime on campuses is way too prevalent and there’s such a fear of walking home late at night… We wanted to put our heads together to give people peace of mind.”
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The app uses your smartphone’s GPS technology to track your trip home and allows a friend or loved one to follow your progress virtually.
“Whenever you’re leaving a spot and you want to get home safely, or to any destination safely, you just input your address in the search bar or you can drag a pin on a map,” Ernst explained. “Then you select contacts from your contact book – whether that be your family or friends, just people you trust in general – and then instantly Companion handles the rest.
“As a walker, you can just put your phone in your pocket and you can be on your way,” she said.
Ernst – a business major and computer science minor – helped create the free app with four other university students.
The app offers a number of ways users can either manually or automatically alert their companion of potential trouble.
“Companion monitors all your movements and if you don’t make it home on time, or if you go off route, or if you fall, or if you’re pushed, or if your headphones are pulled out of your phone, instantly all the people that you selected from your contact book are notified of that change in movement and that they should check up on you,” explained Ernst.
“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 actually reassure the app that it’s OK – you just tap a button. If a user doesn’t tap that button, then the contacts are notified that something could be wrong,” Ernst said.
The app also includes an “I feel nervous” button that allows users to tap it to let their family and friends know they’re feeling nervous at any given time.
The first version was launched November 2014 but the second version was created in late August. It’s now available on Google Play and the Apple Store.