New personal app to help students get around safely on campus

Anisa Jibrell – News Writer

Be aware, and don’t travel alone.

This was the main message that underscored a compilation of safety tips chief Joseph Dooley sent out in an email to faculty and students in response to the armed robbery involving a student that took place on Pine Rock Avenue that occurred around midnight on Sept. 5.

“We ask students that they utilize the shuttles. If you’re walking, don’t walk alone. Walk as a group. If you’re walking be cognizant of your surroundings, be cognizant of the people who may be around,” said Dooley. “I wouldn’t be walking with my cellphone in hand, texting or listening to music and not be aware.”

But for times when friends aren’t around and awareness isn’t enough to ease the wary mind, the new personal safety app, Companion, ensures that you never have to walk home alone again.

The application let’s you choose a contact from your phone as your companion to watch you travel from point A to point B, virtually, according to the website. Users can enter their destination and how long it normally takes to get there, and it allows your companion to keep an eye on you in real time. The app doesn’t need to be downloaded for you to qualify as a companion. In this case, it operates via text and sends the companion a link to an interactive map with the user’s movements.

The app uses the iPhone’s and Android’s sensors to track a user’s movements, and if it detects any abrupt change in movement –or if the subject changes their route– the companion is alerted. If the user doesn’t respond to a message that says “ARE YOU OK?” within 15 seconds, an alarm goes off on your phone.

“It’s a really good idea. It’s better than you having to text your friend. At least they can actually see if you’re okay or not,” said Michelle Robinson, exercise science major.

Onshouda Shaban, junior biology major said some students may be hesitant to use the blue emergency lights or late night Owl Service because seeking out help can be embarrassing, but said the Companion app would be more effective because it’s help “at the touch of a button.”

“I think that it would just be more effective. It’s on your phone,” said Shaban. “And the fact that it tracks your movements is actually a really good feature. Because if you’re running, you might be too nervous to talk on the phone.”

The app also features an “I Feel Nervous” button that users can use to notify their Companion if they feel uncomfortable at any given time, as well as a “Call 911” option that calls the authorities and sends the police your GPS location.

Although the new app has been gaining momentum on college campuses nationwide, its uses extend beyond the college campus, according to Margaret Ukah, senior public health major, who said the app can be useful to people who reside in big cities like New York City that have high crime rates.

Ukah said she’d rather use other measures to stay safe like removing her headphones or staying on the phone with a friend until she gets to her destination.

“I think it’s a good idea but I personally wouldn’t use it because I already take other measures like calling a friend or not using my headphones,” said Ukah. “Or just being aware of my surroundings.”

Ukah said the app is a good idea but remains skeptical of the idea of relying on technology for your own personal safety.

“I feel like technology’s getting too deep into our personal life,” said Ukah.

Photo Credit: Yutaka Tsutano


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