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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Companion safety app gathers over half a million users

The Companion application, a new addition to the mobile security realm, came out just two weeks ago and has already gathered over half a million users, becoming one of the most downloaded iPhone apps this month.

The app utilizes various smartphone features to help a chosen friend or family member track an app user’s journey through campus and contact authorities in case of emergency.

A student traveling from one side of campus to the other at midnight can choose a few friends to watch his or her progress. By using GPS and built in-sensors, the app can track the person’s exact location and recognize whether the phone starts unexpectedly rapidly moving.

The sensors can tell if the person starts running or if the phone is dropped. The app then asks whether the user is OK, and if he or she does not respond within 15 seconds, the contacts tracking the user are notified.

“Companion is different than other apps because of the sensors,” Lexie Ernst, co-founder of the Companion app, said.

Companion is not the first mobile security app. Over the past few years, various campuses started using similar security apps such as EmergenSee, CampusSafe and many more that put the user in contact with local authorities with the click of a button.

“Anything that gets you closer to the police keeps you safe. With the press of a button they know you’re in distress,” Eric Olsen, assistant chief of police at Stony Brook University, said.

The makers behind the app, a group of college students from the University of Michigan, originally intended the app for use on campuses.

“We wanted to put our heads together to improve security and give every college student the peace of mind,” Ernst said.

Since then, the app has exploded in popularity and can now be used in any situation. For example, parents can monitor their kids as they go to the bus stop in the early hours of the morning. Family members can see if their elders are OK. With Companion’s international capabilities, and professionals can use the app in bustling cities.

The app can also keep authorities aware of which areas need the most surveillance. In a written statement, the Companion team said it encourages users “to better their communities by indicating areas where they feel nervous.”

The data will then be passed on to campus security in order to make those areas safer.

“I believe this is the future of security,” Ernst said. “We all have phones glued to our hands, and phones are basically our appendage at this point.”

Meanwhile, Stony Brook University currently offers SB Guardian for free. Olsen said SB Guardian is “underutilized by students and community,” but now that the service has turned into a highly accessible app this year, more people will probably download it on their phones.

The University Police have worked with SB Guardian for the past four years and have no plans to work with another app as of now, Olsen said.

“It’s like having a blue light phone in your pocket,” Olsen said, referring to the phones that are scattered around campus and will place the user directly in contact with authorities. “We’ll be able to know your exact location.”


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