Mobile apps for personal safety
| by Rohini Lakshane
For most smartphone users, their phones are their constant companions, almost surgically attached to them. We used a few apps that turn the mobile phone into an emergency alert system. Some of them are personal safety apps that raise a distress signal and alert either a pre-determined group of people or those present around you of an emergency. Others merely indicate your location and could be used by your loved ones to know all is well with you. Here is the compilation along with our experiences of using the apps.
Screenshot of a 'glympse'
Glympse lets you share your location in real time with anyone for a specified period of time. Pick the recipient, set the timer for your estimated time of arrival, add a message and choose your destination. The chosen people will get a ‘glympse’ via email or SMS, which contains a link to your location in real time marked on a Google map. The recipient does not need to install Glympse to view this information. You can choose to make your location public, share it with one or more selected groups, or share it via apps such as Facebook on Twitter. For routes you take frequently, you can save the glympse in ‘Favorites’. You can also add events from your phone’s calendar so that the recipients of your location would know of your arrival at the event. You can cancel or delete a Glympse while still on your way. All your glympses are stored in the History unless you delete them.
We found that the location marker on Glympse was not accurate but was within tolerance limits. The best thing about Glympse is that it does away with the privacy concerns with most location sharing services.
Google Latitude on iOS
Latitude is another location sharing service that lets your friends view your location. You can choose the level of location of detail you want to share. When you ‘check in’ to places, your friends will receive an update with your location marked on a Google map. It is integrated with the Google Maps app. You could use apps such as Bactitude for Google Latitude to control your GPS accuracy and location update frequency, helping you save battery.
Life360 family (left) and Panic alert (right)
Members of a family or group can add each other on the app and track each other’s locations. Members can update their location to notify other members that they are safe. You can add a custom message to your notifications. You can receive notifications when a member arrives at or leaves a certain place. For example, you can save the location of your child’s school to know when she has arrived at school or left from there. If you are in distress, send a panic alert. All the other members will receive an email, app notification or SMS with your distress message, location co-ordinates, a timestamp and a link to your location marked on a Google map. We found the location extremely accurate and the distress alert was received without significant time lag.
The map prominently displays services such as hospitals, fire stations, and police stations in your vicinity. The feature to receive sex offender alerts, crime alerts and to view crimes locations from upto a year ago on the map does not show any results for locations in India. The app can be set to run in the background and you can choose the frequency with which your location is automatically updated.
When you raise a distress alert, Eyewatch captures a 20 second video with audio (or five photographs in burst mode for phones on which video recording is disabled). Your listed Emergency Response Contacts will receive an SMS or email with an alert code with which they can view on the Eyewatch website the video or the photos, your last location marked on a Google map, a previous location (if logged), the timestamp of the alert, the duration for which you had raised the alert, the battery level and signal strength of your phone when you can you had raised the alert. We also found a "pre-alert audio" logged along with the distress alerts
SMS alerts from this app are sent even if you have lost data connectivity. You can convey your well-being with the ‘I am Safe’ feature. Additionally, the website of the app lists the following features:
Emergency alert email sent by Fightback
FightBack (Android, BlackBerry, Symbian)
FightBack is a novel concept. Emergency alerts sent by users are also logged anonymously on a crowdsourced map. FightBack instantly alerts upto five pre-determined contacts and send them an SMS and an email with the link to the user’s location on a Google map. Though the emergency alert system works well, downloading and installing the app is tedious, and the app has its shortcomings. Read our full review of the app.
bSafe test of emergency alert SMS (left), Follow Me trace (right)
Price: Free. Premium version costs $1.99 per month
bsafe has free and premium versions. The latter allows a your set of ‘Guardians’ to track you in real time using the ‘Follow me’ feature. In the free version, an SOS button in the app has to be pushed to send an SOS alert. One of the Guardians is called and each one is sent an emergency SMS with a link to your location on a Google map. It also has an audio alarm that can be switched on to ring when an SOS is activated. The use of the audio alert is not advisable when confronted with an attacker as the alarm announces that your contacts are being called for help. The ‘I am here’ notifies the Guardians of your GPS location. You can set the app to make a fake call to you after a delay so that you can excuse yourself and get out of awkward situations.
S&S Rescue Pack (Android)
A neat and uncomplicated rescue and emergency response tool. It has a flashlight and a compass. You can activate an alarm whistle by tapping on it. An SOS function flashes the SOS signal in Morse code using the phone’s flashlight. You can set up phone numbers to be called automatically during an emergency. The ‘Send My Location’ feature sends a link to your location marked on a map via SMS.
One Touch SOS (Android)
Enter upto three contacts, set an emergency message and push the big, bright red SOS button. It gets your location and sends an SMS to your contacts with the address and a marker on a Google map. A light and simple app for times when you prefer not to use the more elaborate GPS tracking apps mentioned above that run in the background and consume battery power.
Safety alert screen of YWCA Saferty Alert (left), instructions (rights)
This app developed by the YWCA Singapore displays the contact details of local helplines apart from the distress alert function and an alarm. Safety apps meant for use in other places could replicate the feature of the list of helplines or automatic calling of local helplines. YWCA Alert calls one of the emergency contacts listed when an alert is raised and send an SMS to each one with your location details. The audio safety alarm can be turned off before or after the alert is raised.
Scream Alarm (Android)
It plays a clip with a woman’s screaming voice in infinite loop. This could be more useful than an alarm in getting the attention of people nearby and also if the person in distress is mute, gagged or too feeble to call out for help.
Disclaimer: We have only provided information about a selection of personal safety apps. Readers are advised to exercise their discretion when downloading and using them.
Main image: Getty Images
Tags: personal safety apps , distress alert apps , emergency apps , emergency response system , emergency alert apps , safety apps , safety alarm , Life360 , Glympse , Google Latitude , Eyewatch , FightBack , bSafe , S&S Rescue Pack , One Touch SOS , YWCA Safety Alert , Scream Alarm , SOS Whistle , PanicLock , mobile apps for personal safety