For Workers in Danger, Personal Safety Apps Abound

Even workers using password-protected smartphones can get protection with an app that works without requiring the phone to be unlocked.

personal safety apps

It can be a scary world out there for employees who do their jobs in potentially dangerous situations, such as social workers or mental health agency caseworkers who sometimes see clients in volatile situations in sketchy neighborhoods. Their bosses or co-workers may know they are out there in the field, but they don't have any way to let them know if a problem has arisen.

That's where personal safety apps can be helpful, providing some kind of monitoring to enable a user to get help in an emergency through the use of a few keystrokes on the device's display.

But for enterprise workers who use work-mandated, password-protected smartphones, it can be trickier to use such apps. In an emergency, they don't have time to enter a password, swipe a screen to activate an app and then report what the problem is at the moment.

A new app for iOS and Android users, however, is looking at this scenario with an eye toward enterprise workers.

SafeSignal, released by emergency communications software vendor AlertMedia on Feb. 18, includes a wristband tether (pictured) that wraps around a user's wrist. The other end of the tether is plugged into the speaker jack of their smartphone and sets off an alarm in the app when the tether's plug is pulled out of the phone jack by a wearer in an emergency. The alert goes directly to a SafeSignal 24-hour monitoring center, which immediately notifies local law enforcement agencies wherever the wearer is located.

And through that whole process, the notification is done even if the worker's smartphone is password-protected, making the emergency declaration instant and seamless, without the need for time-consuming personal intervention by the worker during a time of crisis, according to Brian Cruver, the founder and CEO of AlertMedia.

"They feel safer with this," said Cruver, who told eWEEK of workers who are using the app and the wrist tether in a wide variety of businesses and agencies around the country. Cruver said he could not name any clients because the companies don't want to tip off their use of the product to protect their workers. By having the app and tether, employees using the system know that "if I pull this, the police are going to come," he said.

The app and monitoring keep track of the employee and has their name, their location, the name of the company they work for and other pertinent information that police may need to know if they are called in an emergency, he said. Once the tether is pulled out of the phone jack, an audible alarm and verbal warning also are activated in the user's smartphone to advise attackers that the police have been called and are on their way.

SafeSignal is built for enterprises and is being used by companies that pay about $3 for each user per month for some 500 to 1,000 employees at a time. Some companies are using it with as many as 8,000 users, he said.

"We're with them and we're accompanying them into that dangerous situation," said Cruver. "They can now do their jobs with confidence, knowing that our monitoring team and law enforcement is essentially by their side, making sure they are safe."

Other enterprise-aimed apps offer similar protections, including Guardly, which can send a silent emergency alert to corporate safety officials to get help from police.

A wide variety of consumer-based personal safety apps also are on the market, including bSafe, which lets users alert friends when they get home late at night so they know they arrived safely; and variants such as React Mobile and Red Panic Button, which provide tracking and alerts to friends. Other apps are aimed specifically at college campus safety.