The basic idea is this: start the app when you’re traveling through an area where you feel unsafe. Hold your finger down on the screen until you feel safe again. When you remove your finger, you have ten seconds to enter a PIN. If the correct PIN is not entered, police are notified of your GPS location.
Because I’m a research nerd, I did some legwork on the people behind it. I was also curious about how the police notification part of it worked, and what the company’s business plan was. Here’s the first part of a brief SafeTrek timeline, from its inception through the end of 2013, gleaned from online public records:
The earliest mention of the app I found was a branding presentation dated April 22nd, 2013, by Portguese designer Frederico Cardoso. I couldn’t discern an obvious connection betwee him and SafeTrek’s creators, but I did find two news stories from May of 2013, about SafeTrek winning an app design competition. Both were from University of Missouri student news sites: “App designer student codes winning smartphone app” and “Public safety app wins RJI student competition.”
Later, in August of 2013, the Columbia Business Times reported that SafeTrek was “aiming for a release date of Aug. 1 for the MU campus” and “[t]he app will make its debut on Windows 8.” Well, neither of those things appears to have happened: the iOS version first appeared in October of 2013, and no Windows version appears to exist at all—I could find no mention of it anywhere, not even on the official SafeTrek web site.
Speaking of the official site, the current SafeTrek team appears to be five University of Missouri college students: Zach Beattie, Zach Winkler, Nick Droege, Aaron Kunnemann, and Derek Provance. The articles from May of 2013, identify the original app creators as “Convergence Journalism senior Natalie Cheng, Business Administration senior Zach Beattie and Information Technology senior Zach Winkler” (my emphasis).
It’s a bit disheartening that there appear to be no women currently leading SafeTrek development, when young women would seem to be the people who stand to benefit the most from this app. (I won’t speculate about why Natalie Cheng left the SafeTrek project, but she has since co-founded another company, Quirks Consignment.)
Things got much more interesting for SafeTrek in 2014. I’ll blog about that next Wednesday! Meanwhile, please install the app, try it out, and let me know what you think.