About a month after moving to New York City, I was walking across the Pulaski Bridge from Brooklyn to Queens when I noticed a man following me. Or he just happened to be walking in the same direction as me, and there wasn’t any other way to go, what with being on a bridge and all. But as pretty much any woman who has ever been alone at night can attest (this is one of those rare cases when I think it is perfectly fine to make gendered generalizations), the uncertainty is enough to make you reaching for your bear mace and scissors. As I, for some insane reason, had neither on me, I turned around and yelled at him to get in front of me or I would call the police. Turns out he was just a socially awkward guy, who then scrambled to get the hell away from me. But if he had been dangerous and if I had tripped and couldn’t touch my phone or wasn’t able give the police my location fast enough, shit would have hit the fan in a very real way. Enter the Companion app!
Created by seniors at the University of Michigan as a response to a lack of campus safety resources, Companion is the critical safety app that turns your friends into real-time virtual bodyguards. Most apps alert your emergency contacts only if you don’t arrive at your preprogrammed destination, which isn’t very helpful if a lot of time has already elapsed. With Companion, you give it your location and destination and the contact(s) you want to alert (bonus – they don’t have to have the app themselves), and it’ll show them a map with your moving location. The app’s motion sensitivity is also critically important; if you trip, veer from your path, start running, or your headphones are ripped off, it will alert your companions and ask you to press a button telling it that you’re okay. If you don’t press it within 15 seconds, your phone will start blaring a loud alarm to scare the shit out of your assailant. The “are you ok” and “call 911” buttons are also enormously helpful.
While this was originally intended for students walking on campuses at night, it is being used in several countries by many non-students, both women and men. As Lexie Ernst, Co-founder of Companion, told IBTimesUK, “both men and women from all demographics have emailed us saying they’d love to use the app, lots of parents want to use the app for their children, and some people want their elderly parents to use it to make sure they don’t get lost.” While there has been lot of debate over the past year about overprotective parenting versus free range parenting, it doesn’t negate the importance of this app for a broad range of people. Walks home, blind dates, stalking your children and grandparents, it’s a universally applicable and vitally important tool.
Images via Companion
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