By Tracey Dowdy
Whether you’re backpacking across Europe, walking across a parking lot late at night, or allowing your daughter to go to her first unsupervised party, personal safety is always a consideration. Male or female, young or old, we all feel safer when there’s someone there beside us.
Fortunately, even when that someone isn’t available, we still have options. Mobile phones can act as personal safety monitors and alert friends or authorities if we feel we’re in danger or we can’t call for help.
[Note: no app can replace experienced first responders; if you feel you’re in a real emergency or immediate danger you should always call 911.]
bSafe allows you to set up your own personal safety network from your contacts. bSafe offers Follow Me, which enables your contacts to virtually walk you home, and the SOS button, which when tapped immediately starts recording audio and video, broadcasts your location and (optional) sounds an alarm. Data (video, voice, location and time stamps) is stored on bSafe servers should you need to make a police report. You can set a timer to send a fake call for blind dates and set a timer that will trigger an alert if you don’t check in. (Free – iOS, Android)
Kitestring is a web-based service that works through SMS text, so it works even with feature phones. Once you register at kitestring.io you can set up a customized message which alerts emergency contacts if you fail to check in within 5 minutes of a pre-assigned time. You can set a personalized keyword so that Kitestring will continue to work even if someone else has control of your phone. (Free)
OnWatch has six customizable alert modes that allow you to send a personalized message to friends, family, 911, campus police, or any combination of these with just two taps. Or set the timer before you go out and, if you fail to respond, your message is automatically sent to your pre-selected contacts. OnWatch is connected to your smartphone’s GPS so your location is tied to all messages. You can activate a flashlight, an alarm, and post messages to Facebook and Twitter. (Free download – iOS, Android; subscription $0.99/month, $9.99 annually)
Guardly offers a free and a premium service. With the free version you can notify everyone in your emergency circle – family, friends, 911 and campus police – with a one-way alert. As an added bonus, you can place an emergency call while your phone is still locked more easily than you normally could. With the premium version, Guardly can immediately connect you to a multi-party conference call, private IM session and real-time location tracking during an emergency call. (Free download – iOS, Android; premium subscription $1.99/month, $19.99 annually)
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.