Students at the University of Michigan have developed a phone application called Companion, which allows you to be virtually “walked home” by friends. Companion, which was originally created for students on college campuses, enables someone to request a companion to keep them company and also track them via GPS. Your companion does not need to have the app installed on their phones to be able to escort someone home. They will receive a text message letting them know that someone has requested their companionship with a link to a interactive map showing the route home. If the user leaves their path, starts running, has their headphones removed from their phone, or falls, the application asks the user if they’re alright. The user then has 15 seconds to respond and if they do not, the app projects an alarm noise, gives the option to instantly phone police, and notifies the escort so that they can choose to call the police or the user.
Tens of thousands of people around the world have downloaded Companion, which is free for both iOS and Android. If campuses choose to partner with Companion, their campus police or safety departments are also incorporated into the app’s options. The application also has an “I’m nervous” option that allows users to track where and why they feel uncomfortable so that schools are able to use this data for improving campus safety.
The creators of the app say that many people from outside of the US have downloaded the application and that they’ve had requests from parents who want to use the app for their children as well as from folks who want to use the app for their elderly parents or grandparents. Companion is one of many phone applications being used to improve safety on campuses. Circle of 6 and LiveSafe are two other applications students are using to stay safe on campus. As a post on Companion’s blog says, “…while we cannot erase all the “bad guys” from our planet, we can take a step in the right direction by refusing to walk home alone. Take a cab, walk with a friend, or walk with Companion. Just don’t walk alone.” While campus programming is trending toward primary prevention education, the importance of – and necessity for – risk reduction tools unfortunately remains.