University student-developed Companion app gains international recognition
The Companion app, created last year by a group of University of Michigan students and launched to the public last year, is now beginning to receive international attention.
The app, created by a team of five Ross School of Business students, won the Michigan Business Challenge, including $25,000. Originally launched in November 2015 by now-Business alumni Danny Freed, Nathan Pilcowitz, Jake Wayne and Katie Reiner and now-Business senior Lexie Ernst, was created to assist students as they walk home late at night, allowing friends and family to virtually track them as they walk home and make sure they arrive safely. The app had a small launch last November with an iOS version for students at the University, and has achieved high popularity.
“I could never have possibly imagined Companion’s explosive hyper-growth in the past month, and I’m so excited to be a part of a thriving startup that aims to increase safety on college campuses,” Ernst said in a press release.
The app garnered 500,000 new users during the first week after its launch. The app works by asking the user to plug in their destination and then calculates the estimated time it will take the user to reach their destination. Should the user take a longer than normal time to walk, the app will contact the designated “companion” for the person walking back. Besides showing the path of the user walking home, the app utilizes built-in sensors in the phone to notice changes — such as a change in pace of the person walking or if the headphones come out. If these sudden changes happen, the app asks the user if they feel all right.
After initial success on the University’s campus, enough universities and colleges approached the Companion team about the app that they decided to make it public, offering it to any user through iOS and Android.
University faculty and staff have also taken notice of the possibilities the app could have, suggesting features such as why walkers pressed the “I feel nervous” button. Diane Brown, information officer for the University’s Department of Public Safety and Security, told the Detroit Free Press she wants to use the app to help improve campus safety.