“Apps against Abuse” Winners

                Last July we told you about a competition vice President Biden was sponsoring to help prevent dating violence called “Apps Against Abuse.” This innovative competition challenged participants to design smart phone apps that would help women stay in touch with and alert friends/relatives or the authorities should they find themselves in a dangerous situation. The winners were released on November 1st.  Two winners were chosen from 30 entrants. Both apps have unique attributes that will assist users in preventing and avoiding dating violence.

                The Circle of 6 is one of the winners and it main concept is the creation of a circle of six trusted friends. Once the friends are added to your circle the app gives you three primary features. The first is a car icon that sends a text message to your circle saying “Come and get me. I need help getting home safely. My GPS coordinates are…” The second is a phone icon that sends your circle a text saying “Call me and pretend you need me. I need an interruption.” The third and final icon is a chat icon and it sends the message “I’m looking for some information, just letting you know.” This links the user with “risk-assessment tools and information about healthy vs. abusive relationships developed by content partners, including ISIS, The Line Campaign, RAINN, California Coalition against Sexual Assault.” They have also created a facebook page to encourage users to take a pledge to help prevent dating violence.

                The other winner is called OnWatch and has some features similar to those of Circle of 6 plus a few extra. Similar to Circle of 6, OnWatch allows you to preset friends as designated contacts as well as the number for your campus police department.  OnWatch has two categories of features; one that with two taps to the icons can send out immediate request for assistance and one that provides information to your contact. The immediate help features category has 3 main features. The first is the “Panic” feature, to use it you set your phone to the panic mode and then should you find yourself in a dangerous situation you tap the icon twice and it calls 911 and sends emergency text messages to your contacts. There is also a 911 only feature that will automatically call 911 without sending a text to your contacts. The campus police feature calls your campus police department without notifying your circle.

                The non-immediate features include a watch my back section which allows you to preset contacts to be notified if the feature is not disarmed by a certain time frame. For example you are going out on a blind date so you set the timer for a few hours later to alert your friends to call you and then the police if they can’t reach you. If the date goes well you disarm the alert; but if something goes wrong your friends will know who you are with and that you need help. There is also an “I’m Here” feature which messages your friends to let them know your location in case you need help or a ride. There is also an interactive feature which allows you to post your alerts to facebook or twitter should you feel inclined to. Though this app is a little more complex then Circle of 6 it has more features so I see why both were named as winners.

                Both apps will be released as free apps for the iPhone in early 2012 and the makers of Circle of 6 have announced plans to create the app for other platforms (android, blackberry etc.) sometime following the official release. Check here for updates on when the apps are released to the public.

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