Sunday, March 18, 2012

GPS Safety App Offers Alternative to Tracker

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There are tons of GPS trackers on the market designed to help keep loved ones safe whenever they are out on their travels. Most of these involve actually clipping something to a bag or carrying something in a pocket. But, if you’re anything like me, those things are easy to lose or forget about the moment that you take it out to charge it. However, a new company has aimed to solve this problem.

Virtual Halo is an app designed for iPhone and Apple Watch users, and it takes advantage of the device’s GPS functions to help users feel just a little bit safer. Unlike some other apps, this particular app does not broadcast your location continuously but rather sends a snapshot to selected contacts, which adds a little more privacy than a traditional tracker.

Features

At the time of writing, there are three main functions available on the Virtual Halo app, although the developer has indicated that more will be added eventually.

  • SOS – this function allows a user to send a text to a selected emergency contact with location. This is the most basic function of all trackers, and allows users to let others know they do not feel safe. The users location will be included in the text message, and recipients can click on the link to view a map to the location.
  • Check In – This function allows users to check in at a specific time and let others know that they are okay. This would be useful if you’re headed home and want to let everyone know you made it safely; it will also send out a location along with the message, although you can manually turn that off.
  • Going Out – Easily the coolest function of this app, this feature allows users to set a time which they will return from an activity and if they do not check in by that point, it will automatically send contacts a notification that they did not check in. This adds a level of security if you’re doing something like hiking or biking. Users could easily leave the device charging at home so that if they did not return, someone would be notified automatically.

Downsides

While it’s extremely convenient to be able to use the smartphone you already own instead of purchasing a different device, there are a handful of downsides. The first one is that the Check In and Going Out features require a $2/month subscription, and as the Going Out is the most useful of the three features, that’s a little disappointing. However, the SOS function is 100% free at the time of writing. There is a 7 day trial so that users can see if the extra features are worth the money or not. You can learn more here.

Aside from price, the primary this that makes this app only a second child behind a more traditional tracker is that it relies on your smartphone battery while requiring GPS to be turned on (which can drain smartphone battery fairly quickly). Sending text messages also will cost you, but since most phones come with unlimited texting nowadays, this is almost a moot point.

 

Regardless, if you’re just looking for something to help give a little extra piece of mind without actually having your whereabouts tracked 24/7, then this app might be a good option. You can download it from the App Store for free.

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