BY KYRA DAHRING, Guest Writer & SASCHA RAIYN, News Editor
Students at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor campus have at least two apps that can provide a virtual assist to anyone walking home alone — Companion and Shadowme.
“Back at school in Ann Arbor, it seems like we get a crime alert email nearly every other day,” the creators of Companion write in their promotional material. “While we brush them off most of the time, they are always a bit spooky.”
Companion was released earlier this year. It allows users to share their GPS data with a designated “companion.”
Equipped with the starting location and the user’s destination, Companion sends alerts when the walk takes an unexpected turn. It also sends alerts when it senses an emergency. If a user starts running, it sends the companion a text and sets off a loud alarm.
Shadowme was a runner up in the Fall 2011 U-M Mobile Apps Challenge.
The app was created by Nick Butler, Andrew Copp and Adam Janower for a class project. Users simply open the widget and send their location to trusted contacts via text. If the walk takes longer than expected, urgent texts will be sent to friends.
Janower said their professor told him that students are good at solving problems, but not at identifying them. As part of the project, students had to look in the community for a problem to solve.
“At the time, there were a number of sexual assaults on campus that had lots of students, parents and community members concerned,” Janower said.
The group wanted to create something that could take simple precautions, yet was easy and automatic for students to use when walking home at night.
They started by creating a pitch — screenshots and workflows — to present to the class. They divided up the work based on their skill sets. Copp focused on procuring the graphic design work, Janower was the project manager and tester and Butler did the majority of the technical design and implementation.
They tested the app by using it around campus. At the end of the semester the working app was submitted to Google Play Store and was available to download.
“We were proud of what we accomplished in a short amount of time,” Janower said. “The most important thing to us was building something that had the potential to help the community.”