by Jim Neff
“Call me when you get there.” How many times has someone asked you to do that? It's just human nature to want to be sure that someone you care about has arrived safely at a destination. This is
particularly true when we head out for a cross country ski trek.
At the risk of being accused of being terminally geeky, some new technology might take the place of the (old school) arrival call. The Companion smart phone app boasts “you'll never walk alone.” According to Business Insider: “The Companion app, created by five students from the University of Michigan, enables users to request a friend or family member to keep them company virtually and track their journey home via GPS on an online map. Although they can do so, the friend or family member does not need to have installed the Companion app, which is available for both Android and iOS.” As the Companion notes: “You can request anyone from your contacts to be your companion. If they don’t have the app, they will receive an SMS text message with a link to a live map of your trip.”
I always like to test things before I recommend them, so this week I took the Companion app for a spin. I installed the free app on my iPhone 6s and tried it both on point-to-point and start-finish at the same location walks. I chose my wife as my companion (with not having the app installed on her phone).
When I hit the start button on the app she received a text telling her I had started the trip. When I arrived at my end destination and hit the finish button, she received a text telling her I had arrived. On the second walk, I intentionally did not hit the finish button and that caused an high-pitched alarm to go off on my phone. “If the user strays off their path, falls, is pushed, starts running, or has their headphones yanked out of their phone, the app detects these changes in movement and asks the user if they're OK. If the user is fine, they press a button on the app to confirm within 15 seconds. If they do not press the button, or a real emergency is occurring, the Companion app transforms the user's phone into a personal alarm system that projects loud noises to scare criminals from the scene, and gives you the option to instantly call the police.” The app has a Call Police/911 button.
I was concerned that the app might be a battery drain, but it uses no more power than Facebook. On one walk in addition to the Companion I ran Fitbit, a bluetooth headset, ESPN radio, and stopped to take three photos. The battery drain after an hour was just 7 percent.
Although this was originally developed for college campus use, I can think of all sorts of scenarios where this app would be useful. Mountain bikers and cross country or anyone going out into the woods would have a safety net.
The bottom line is I recommend the Companion app. Get more information at http://companionapp.io and http://www.businessinsider.com/campanion-app-surging-in-popularity-2015-9.
Now, getting to a destination safely is always the main goal, but we all know that sometimes accidents do happen. In those situations, having medical information immediately available to EMS personnel can be a life saver. This is where another app, smartICE (In Case of Emergency) comes in. “This program will store the necessary medical information in an easily accessible format and alert EMS personnel if you become unconscious. This application has the capability of storing more than just the basic information needed to treat you on the scene of your emergency.”
I've had this app on my phone for several years. I contains my personal information, current medical status, medical history, my medications, and a list of my doctors. I've also added my picture, a voice message I've recorded, and my emergency contacts. Plus, using the app, I created a special message with my main emergency contact person that serves as the wallpaper for my lock screen.
The smartICE app's icon is bright orange and resides at the top left corner of my home screen. According to the smartICE website: “EMS personnel are becoming more and more aware of the capabilities of smart phones. Just as they were trained to look for “Medic Alert Tags” and other medical information alert devices years ago, they are now being taught to look for information stored in digital formats and on cellular phones.”
I highly recommend smartICE. You can get a Lite version for free, a regular version for 99 cents, and a full family version for $2.99. Unfortunately, this app is only available for IOS, but other apps in the Android world provide similar services. Go to http://ems-options.com for details.