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How one woman's abduction led to the Watch Over Me app

Cassandra Khaw | May 15, 2013
After she narrowly escaped a kidnapping, Chin Xin-Chi created a mobile app to help prevent other women from becoming victims themselves.

Her polite veneer slips. Her smile disappears. "When I got to actually thinking about it, I realized that if I hadn't managed to escape, no one would know where I was. No one would know for at least 12 hours. My boyfriend was out of town; my parents live in another state. I had just gotten off the phone with my dad, so there was no way he'd call till the next day. The reality is that no one would have known what could have happened until long after everything was over."

Chin didn't escape the ordeal unscathed. Up until the past few months prior to her interview with TechHive, she was unable to even bring herself to drive a car. "I was going through a really rough time when I met my cofounder. He had developed a safety app, but it only had a basic interface. We started talking, and I thought that this would be the best way to channel my rage and frustration."

Watch Over Me is the result of that encounter. A streamlined alternative to standard panic-button apps, Watch Over Me operates on a simple premise: You tell the app what you're doing (it has a preset list that includes tasks such as walking to your car and meeting someone new) and how long you believe you'll take to accomplish that task. If you do not report back within that time frame, Watch Over Me will then, depending on the subscription type you have, send an alert to your listed emergency contacts via Facebook, email, or SMS.

Is it just a notification? According to Chin, it will do much more than let people know what's going on. Watch Over Me will purportedly send details such as when you started your errand, the moment the app began tracking your movements, your current location, what you were supposed to be doing at that time--it will even time-stamp events and locations for posterity's sake. "If you have the paid version, Watch Over Me will also turn on your mobile device's camera so as to be able to take snapshots of what's going on."

Simplicity was Chin's main priority during the development process. "There are other apps out there, but the problem with most panic-button applications is that, when your back is against the wall, there's just no time to reach into your bag, grab your phone, locate the app, and actually activate it. They don't work. I wish they did, but they don't."

Chin says that she still has trouble parking in a shopping mall alone, and while that she believes that women should not have to live in constant fear, people need to understand that bad things happen. "We need to fight to have people recognize that violence against women is wrong, but we also need to recognize that it's always a possibility and has been since time immemorial."

 

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