The new app — already one of the most downloaded — claims to be a safety tool for children, solo travelers and more. Here’s what you need to know.
Can a smartphone really keep you safe? On the face of it, the answer is, of course not. A phone can’t protect you from violent crime any more than a PC or a tablet computer. But information is power, as they say, and the combination of a smartphone’s data, location technology and innovation can keep you out of some kinds of trouble.
That’s the idea behind Companion, a new iOS and Android app that allows solo travelers to connect with family, friends or public safety departments who can track them on their trip and get alerts if they run into trouble. It’s part of a growing category of apps that promise to keep you safer when you’re on the road, including LiveSafe and Rave Guardian.
Companion became one of the most downloaded iPhone apps earlier this month. Although the company wouldn’t disclose exact numbers, a representative told FORTUNE that it has more than half a million users.
It’s no surprise. A slew of articles in the tech press have breathlessly described Companion as an “incredible” new app that lives up to its billing of keeping you safer on the go.
Here’s how it works: Say you’re walking back home after dark through a questionable neighborhood. The app allows you to designate one of your smartphone contacts as a “companion,” letting that person know where you are and where you’re going.
The Companion app tracks you as you head home, asking you if you’re “OK” from time to time. If you don’t acknowledge the prompt by tapping a button, the app will notify your companion that you could be in trouble.
The app can also tell if you’re walking or have broken into a jog, and it can detect if your headphones have been removed from the jack. Any of these events can trigger a notification, sending a message to your designated friend or to law enforcement.
“We are able to detect when you may be in a sketchy situation and automatically alert your companions with our real-time alert system,” the company says on its site.