- The WanderSafe app developed by Australian entrepreneur Stephenie Rodriguez has been updated with a voice activated feature that uses Apple's Siri and Google Assistant.
- With the voice-activated feature, users can alert three people in their contact list that they are in danger by using unique phrase or word.
- The app also features a new heat map function that identifies dangerous streets and suburbs, including in Australia.
A voice-activated feature using Apple's Siri and Google Assistant can now be used on an Australian-founded app helping to prevent attacks on women and vulnerable people.
Australian inventor Stephenie Rodriguez first introduced her WanderSafe app in 2018 to help women travel more safely. The free app works together with a hand-held beacon that features a 140-decibel alarm and a bright light for lighting up a potential threat.
The beacon also has a button users can press that sends an SOS message and GPS coordinates to three people in their contact list who can respond with help.
Now Apple's Siri and Google Assistant have been incorporated into the app, allowing users to signal for help using their voice.
For the feature to work, users must first create their own phrase for the voice assistant to recognise. When the phrase is uttered, an SOS message and exact GPS coordinates of the user's location are sent to three pre-selected contacts in their phone, whether they are friends, family members or work colleagues.
"It needs to be something, a phrase or a word, that you would not use in everyday language," Rodriguez told Business Insider Australia. "It's purely a phrase that again would be so rare to utter in normal conversation as to not cause a false alarm." She then gave the example "Edelweiss" opposed to a more common word such as "chai latte".
"It would be as simple - once it's set up correctly - as saying, 'Hey Siri, Beetlejuice'," Rodriguez said. "And that would unlock the phone, open up the WanderSafe app and begin to notify the three preset contacts ... as to where they are and that they are in need of assistance urgently."
Rodriguez added that the voice activation feature can work whenever the phone is within hearing distance.
She said it could help a range of people including vision-impaired or elderly people.
"This is fantastic for [the] elderly who might drop their phone or can't reach it, or those who have disabilities where speaking is their form of getting things done," she said.
The voice activation feature was made possible through updates from Apple and Google, particularly around voice assistants.
"They [Google and Apple] didn't develop anything new for us," Rodriguez said. "We just evolved their product to where we could get the features we wanted.
"These breakthroughs recently with both Google Assistant and Siri, allow for app developers such as ourselves to leverage the accessibility of the app inside the phone and connect the dots that we haven't been able to in the past."
WanderSafe is active in 50 countries, with some of its customers including Revlon, Booking.com and Deloitte. In addition to the voice activation feature, it now also includes crime data heat maps which show users the most dangerous streets and suburbs, trafficking data or incident that have happened.
Rodriguez said the company's mission is to democratise safety and impact a billion people by 2025.
"Governments, defence departments [and] diplomats have access to reams of safety information," she said. "When they deploy human capital, they need to know where to tell their people not to go, what not to do, et cetera. But your everyday person has no idea. And the mission is to democratise safety because when we're empowered...we can take care of ourselves more."
Rodriguez developed WanderSafe together with the help of retired CIA executive, Thomas Pecora, to help women feel safe in general and while travelling. She said in a statement, “In Australia for example, one in six women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a current or previous partner from the age of 15."
The Australian Bureau of Statistics found the number of recorded sexual assault victims rose for the seventh consecutive year in 2018, to 26,312. And out of that figure, 84% (or 22,097) were women.