Companion is the name for a new personal safety app that is getting a lot of attention and gaining popularity for its simple and useful purpose.
The Companion app lets your friends, family or other trusted people accompany you remotely when you have to walk alone at night or through a dangerous neighborhood.
You can add anyone you choose to your Companion contact list and the people you put on your list of contacts don’t have to be users of the app themselves.
You enter the location of your intended destination on the app and your chosen contacts can monitor your travel route and movements through an online map of your GPS locations. If you stray too far from the travel route or take longer than expected to arrive at your target location, the app alerts your chosen contacts.
If your contacts do not have the app installed on their smart phone, they will receive your location information, status updates and alerts via SMS push notifications.
The app works by having you tap on a green “YES” button periodically to the question “ARE YOU OK?” If you don’t respond within 15 seconds to the question, the app will contact your designated people and alert them to a potential problem.
College students who use the Companion app will have the option of reporting unsafe situations and areas on campus to their college administrators with the “I FEEL NERVOUS” tool. When students send an “I FEEL NERVOUS” alert, Companion will contact their college officials and let them know about the incident and the area of campus it occurred in.
The Companion app also monitors your phone for any suspicious physical activity that could be a sign of potential trouble.
The app can detect if you are pushed down, fall, deviate from your travel path, start running or if your headphones have been pulled out of your phone’s audio output jack. If Companion detects any of these activities, it will automatically start the 15 second countdown before alerting your contacts.
Companion also has the ability to broadcast loud alarm sounds from the user’s phone to scare off any would-be criminals or troublemakers.
In the event of actual trouble, the app gives users the ability to immediately call the nearest police dispatcher for their area.
According to the app’s creators, Companion is being used by both men and women from all demographic groups.
Parents are using the app to keep an eye on their children’s locations and some people are using it to make sure their elderly parents are able to travel safely without getting lost.
Companion is a free app that is available for Apple iOS and Android smartphones.
While there is no question that this is a useful app for people, especially women in potentially dangerous situations, it remains to be seen how many false distress alerts end up going out to friends, family, university personnel or police due to a multitude of possible user mistakes.
In addition, there have been numerous reports of performance problems due to the apps growing popularity.
Recently, a number of Companion users got the following message when they tried to access the app: “We are currently experiencing heavy traffic. Please be patient with us.”
This is a serious problem for users of an app that is supposed to support personal safety, not to mention a serious liability for the app’s creators.
So far, the Apple iOS version of the app has received decent user reviews. However, one iOS user noted that having to constantly tap “YES” within 15 seconds was awkward while trying to walk somewhere.
On the other hand, user reviews for the Android version of Companion have been less than impressive, with 1 and 2 star reviews outweighing the app’s 4 and 5 star reviews.