“Text me when you get home” is a frequent farewell among friends and family.
But what if you could actually track their journey home, check in if they’re feeling unsafe on their commute, and ensure that they can easily contact the police in an emergency?
That’s all possible with a free app called Companion. Created over a year ago by a group of five students at the University of Michigan, the app has been gaining a ton of momentum after launching to the public two weeks ago.
The Companion app, available on Android or iOS, lets users send requests to phone contacts to virtually track their trips using GPS.
The Companion app uses the phone’s built-in sensors to detect changes in movement — like if the user starts running or the headphones come out. If that happens, the app asks users to confirm that they’re OK. If they don’t do so within 15 seconds, the app notifies your companion who has the option to call the police. At the same time, the app will also go into alert mode for the walker, emitting siren-like noises and displaying a button to also call the police.
The first version of Companion rolled out in November 2014 for students at the University of Michigan. The founders, three of whom are still in college, incorporated early feedback into the app’s current version.
The founders plan to add more features in the future — like touch-ID technology so that only the phone’s owner can hit the “I’m OK” button. That way, someone can’t steal your phone and falsely tell your friends that you’re fine.
Because Companion is collecting anonymous data on users’ paths — and where they “feel nervous” — it’s a potential goldmine of information that universities and cities could analyze to make streets safer.
For now, they’re just working with University of Michigan, although Pilcowitz said others have reached out about potential partnerships.