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Tech Cocktail Chicago

Bluelight – Safety, Privacy and Peace of Mind in an iPhone App

Think of it as, “I’ll call you when I get there 2.0″, or a substitute for the old one ring and hang-up.

Named for that ubiquitous safety light found on every college campus, this new app is brilliantly simple in concept and execution. Utilizing the iPhone’s clock, contacts, messaging and GPS features, the app lets a friend know if you don’t arrive at a destination as planned.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Input the time it will take you to walk/drive/take the bus from where you are to where you are going;
  2. Select a contact to notify from your iPhone’s contact list;
  3. Set the reminder alert – the notification system will let you know it’s time to check in;
  4. Customize (or not) the system’s default message that uses GPS to generate the coordinates of your location.
  5. Hit Send.

Bluelight iPhone app Screen-shots

When you get to where you’re going, you cancel the alert. If you don’t cancel, your contact is notified. Clearly it’s a good idea to let your friends know that you are doing this before they get an alert and think, ‘what the heck?’.

Your designated contact doesn’t need to have the application downloaded – or even an iPhone – to be notified if you don’t check in. Bluelight gets in touch with your contact by sending either a text message or an email (be sure you have this information listed in your address book.)

Again, Bluelight will only send a text or email to your contact after the time has run out on an alert, or if you press “Send Alert Now” –  a sort of emergency distress signal.

Bluelight’s creator is Betsy Huigens, a 20 year old  junior at DePaul University. As a college freshman, Huigens wanted to feel safe when walking home at night, but did not want to compromise her privacy and independence. Huigens says, “I noticed a lot of my friends would go out alone and not tell anyone where they were.”

Not a developer herself, Huigens talked to a friend of a friend that freshman year who could create the application. Not having any money to offer the would-be developer, Betsy held on to the idea and through DePaul’s Coleman Entrepreneurship Center, made the connections to land an internship with Sandbox Industries, a business incubator and venture fund company. This relationship pushed the app from concept to reality.

“With Bluelight,” Huigens says, “my friends now have a safe and easy back-up plan that allows them to live their lives and take responsible risks.”

Clearly concerned with safety, Bluelight is also concerned with privacy. Huigens says that in addition to undergrads, she had another user-situation in mind – those who might not want to tell their friends every detail of what they’re doing (e.g. going out on a blind date), but still want to check in with someone.  By using the application and not having to make a call to announce their arrival, the user doesn’t have to explain their whereabouts – only indicate that they’ve arrived safely.

Download Bluelight for iPhone hereBluelight - Bluelight LLC

Here are some additional situations Huigen suggests Bluelight might be helpful:

  • Going for a run.
  • Riding the bus home after work.
  • Picking up an item you bought from Craigslist.
  • Hiking or mountain biking

Feedback since last week’s launch has been positive, much of it noting the simplicity of the app. Thinking most comments would come from young women, Huigen has been surprised that so many dads have expressed their approval too.

The app is free to download is ad-free, and there’s no catch. Huigen says the development cost was so low that the investors have put the revenue model on hold for now, in favor of releasing an application for altruistic reasons.  There isn’t an Android version as yet, but Huigen says there are plans for one.

Visit Bluelight app’s website for additional information as well as a recommended safety plan for use with the app.

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About the Author

Marla Shaivitz is a writer, developer and digital marketer. She's interested in innovations & innovators in technology and those working toward social good. Follow Marla on Twitter at @marlashaivitz.

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