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Mobile Security App will soon hit campus

A new application will allow on-campus smartphone users to call for emergency campus support at the touch of a button. On Jan. 19, Guardly announced the release of a free mobile security application for students, faculty, and staff at 67 universities and colleges across Canada, including McGill University. This is the first time such a service has been made available to Canadian students.

“Our technology brings the capabilities of code blue emergency phones typically found sparsely on campus paths and in buildings onto students’ smartphones, which we believe will reduce response times for those calling for help,” Guardly CEO Josh Sookman explained in an email to the Tribune.

By downloading the Guardly app onto any iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, or Windows Phone 7 device and registering it with your university email address, campus members can access its services.

Guardly’s service was inspired by the difficulties of witnessing slow responses to 911 calls and trying to reach close friends and family during an emergency, Sookman explained.

“Inspiration for this free service for students came from better understanding how calls for help generally occur on university campuses and how archaic the systems are.”

“It was a natural evolution of our technology, to enable a service like this for students,” Sookman said in a press release. “Given the high prevalence of sexual assault against women and increases in violent acts on some campuses, we feel this innovation should be something provided to students for free.”

When in an emergency situation, students simply launch the app, which initiates a one-to-one voice call with the university’s campus security. In addition, the app allows students to notify up to 15 personal contacts via email, text message, and automated voice calling.

“When Guardly is activated, a group of contacts will receive alerts describing the nature of the emergency, the location where Guardly was activated, and the name of the emergency group triggered,” Sookman said.

In the wake of the presence of riot police on the McGill campus on Nov. 10, this new app may hold greater significance to the McGill community. However, this app was in development starting in the fall of 2010, and the timing is simply a coincidence.

Commenting on the events of Nov. 10 however, Sookman noted that “the incident shows the value that a service like Guardly could bring to help people communicate and spread the word of news of campus much faster.”

When asked about potential abuses of the service, Sookman replied, “Like any emergency service (including 911), it is up to people to act in good faith and use the system appropriately. Often, it is worth the risk to have a few false positives than not to have the service in place at all.”

 

– Kyla Mandel

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