Safety with numbers: why the smartphone could be your new guardian angel

Humans are becoming increasingly attached to their smartphones and these days they’re often seen as lifelines—sometimes quite literally. Here’s how technology is trying to keep us safe. 


bSafe is an iPhone and Android mobile safety app promising to help out in tricky situations – from a bad date to an emergency.

The app focuses heavily on the idea of social safety, with features that allow friends to GPS track you through an app to ensure you reach your destination.

Perhaps the handiest feature of the app is the ‘alert friends’ function. One tap will send an SOS and it even has an optional siren. When the button is pushed, bSafe starts recording, tracking voice, video and location directly to their servers (ensuring it can’t be deleted).

bSafe also has a paid premium option for ‘professional security’. Although this is an international app, this feature is currently only available in Norway and Sweden.

A cool little feature (although perhaps not great for safety) is the fake call function. This allows you to set a timer on when you want to receive a fake call, in order to help you politely excuse yourself from less than enthralling situations. 


Witness follows the same trend as bSafe, but with live streaming capabilities. 

With one touch, the iOS app will immediately start recording, and send a live stream to your chosen contacts, with video, audio, and location information. This data is saved to Witness servers, and deleted the second it’s saved securely.

Unfortunately due to iTunes store restrictions, the creator was not able to include the function of a blacked out screen when recording.

The app could be super handy not only in emergency situations, but also to record law enforcement interactions, particularly with the emergence of a number of police brutality cases recently.

An app has actually been developed by the New York Civil Liberties Union, encouraging citizens to hold law enforcement accountable by monitoring police conduct through the use of similar technology. And with studies showing being on camera changes the behaviour of both police and citizens, that’s a good thing. 


2Life is New Zealand’s own answer to the safety app. With the push of a button you are connected to trained call-centre operators who can track your location and provide the correct emergency services based on your needs.

The app uses Skyhook Wireless location technology, ensuring coverage is available in areas where perhaps regular GPS may fail. Services are available for not only emergencies – but also in situations where you feel uncomfortable, or when you don’t want to bother the police.

2Life provides different subscription options based on your needs, and can even tailor a business plan.

The app has several extra functions, such as call-centre operators that can speak Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean and Hindi, making the app great for those in New Zealand who are concerned there English isn’t good enough to contact emergency services (AUT offers the app for free to all enrolled students). In addition to this, is breakdown assistance. Although a far cry from a ‘dangerous’ situation per se, it can be comforting to know roadside assistance is available at the touch of a button. 

After many years of calls to upgrade the 111 service, the government is set to issue an RFP to develop an app


Genius in its simplicity, safetrekapp is designed for those walking alone and feel unsafe. Simply activate the app, and hold your thumb on the screen. Once your thumb’s been removed, emergency services will automatically be contacted – unless a pin is entered confirming your safety.

American college students, who had heard one too many unsavoury story about incidents on campus, developed the app. 

Unfortunately this is only available in the United States, however it has been recommended for those travelling through the country for extra peace of mind (Samsung also provides a subtle way to alert friends or family that you’re in an emergency and by pressing the power button three times, an alert is sent out to primary contacts. Additional features to this include the ability to send friends pictures and sound to help them an indication of the predicament). 

Family Tracker

This app that allows you to GPS locate all members of you family who are also running it. The app is marketed as the answer to ensuring all members of your family are safe, with the use of forced updates, meaning the user of the device being tracked does not have to ‘check-in’.

Other features include ‘stealth ping’, which will force an update location on your chosen device (without notifying the user at the other end, of course). ‘Breadcrumbs’ ensure you can backtrack your family’s previous whereabouts to ensure they haven’t been up to no good (check out Persistent Security Systems for a look at what the future of policing—and maybe war—might look like). 

Coming soon will be the option of geo-fencing, meaning an alert can be sent to your device when a family member ventures outside of their allotted ‘zone’. No word on whether the phone will be able to be electrified, however. 

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