The market for ‘panic alarm’ apps on smartphones is littered with simple apps which just make a lot of noise if you get attacked, but not much else. This is a mistake.
Smartphones have cameras, microphones, and can broadcast their location – basically everything you need to turn the phone into the ultimate safety device. So it’s surprising that so few startups are addressing this area. One that has been around since 2011 out of Denmark is PanicGuard. The app will sound an alarm, SMS someone, start recording video and track your location. But it’s expensive ($6 a month), and is failing to scale outside the UK/Europe. Its main competitor is the bSafe app on iOS and Android from the startup called Bipper.
This has now launched a major push into the U.S. with both a free and paid-for model, and a way of using it for more everyday safety. It’s this business model which has seen it become the most downloaded mobile safety app in Europe to date, with over 100,000 downloads.
New York residents can try out the premium version of the bSafe app free for three months. Afterwards, or if they live anywhere else in the U.S., the service costs $2 per month or $20 yearly. It’s good timing – New York has seen an alarming 400% spike in violent crime in some parts of the city in the last year. This week bSafe launches a partnership with chain stores 7-Eleven and Narvesen.
Now live on the U.S. iOS store and Android store, bSafe is pretty sophisticated. It not only alerts your friends, but also secures evidence and broadcasts a time-stamped video recording to them and sends them a map with your location. A user decides whether the siren and video should be activated when the alarm is pushed, meaning it works in ‘stealth mode’ for situations where someone wants to get help without alerting, for example, an abusive partner.
But this is not just an emergency app, as it contains several features to ensure the users’ everyday safety. These include the ability to allow you to invite friends to follow you home with live GPS tracking, broadcast just one location, and a ‘Fake Call’ feature makes the phone ring like a real phone call to help the user get out of an uncomfortable situation.
Interestingly bSafe also allows for co-branding with partners wanting to offer additional services for their customers. Thus we understand Bipper is now in discussions with some major telcos and insurance companies after raising seed funding from Innovation Norway.
Founder Silje Vallestad has now moved to the U.S. to fund-raise a Series A round to take the service global.