There are already smart phone applications that let users check Facebook, pop bubble wrap and read the newspaper, but one USC student is working to bring an application to campus that could increase student safety.
Tracy Lawrence, a junior majoring in business entrepreneurship, is collaborating with iPhocus Venture Management Group Inc. to offer a panic button application — iLink Wireless — to USC students. The application, which can be downloaded on any smartphone for $13 per month, allows users who find themselves in a dangerous situation to push a panic button on their phone, which then sends their GPS coordinates to safety authorities.
The system also involves 3-D maps that allow responding officers to see a user’s exact floor and room within a building. Lawrence said she worked with iPhocus to map 15 buildings both on and off campus.
Lawrence said she has always been passionate about self-defense and campus safety, so when she saw the opportunity to work with iPhocus, she jumped at it.
“My personal hope is that it helps the credibility of the school,” Lawrence said.
Students said the panic button application could be useful in certain situations.
“It would be a good way to contact DPS in a situation where you may not be able to actually talk on the phone, and to let the people close to you know what’s wrong,” said Alicia Johnson, a junior majoring in neuroscience and French.
Some students, however, said the price of $13 per month was enough to keep them away.
“I don’t think I would pay for it, just because as a college student I don’t have a lot of extra funds and I might not ever actually use the feature,” said Jeremiah Forkkio, a junior majoring in animation and digital arts.
Lawrence is currently in conversation with USC’s Department of Public Safety, Take Back the Night and the Women’s Student Assembly in hopes of forming a partnership with the university and spreading the word about this new application.
“DPS seems really interested in working with it,” Lawrence said. “Trojans Alert was their first dappling with technology so they haven’t done anything this advanced.”
DPS Chief Carey Drayton said although he thinks the idea sounded good on paper, DPS has not yet decided if it will partner with iPhocus.
“There’s a big difference between a sales pitch and the product actually working,” Drayton said. “I’ve seen a lot of good ideas come and go.”
If DPS decides not to partner with iPhocus, an independent safety patrol close to campus will respond to users who push the panic button, Lawrence said.
Lawrence said iPhocus is aware that many students may have privacy concerns, but iPhocus has special privacy features that can be turned off or on. When turned on, DPS would only see a user’s GPS coordinates when the panic button is pushed. If the privacy settings are turned off, DPS could see a user’s GPS coordinates at all times.
iPhocus is also working with UCLA, UC Berkley and George Mason University. Lawrence said George Mason is probably furthest along in mapping and integrating the software, but that iLink Wireless is still a new product and USC is one of the forerunners.