It seems like the University of Missouri comes out with a new app for smartphones and tablets about once a week, but not all of them win the 2013 Windows 8 mobile app development competition. Safe Trek, developed by MU students Zach Beattie, Natalie Cheng and Zach Winker, took first prize for giving students an easy way to stay safe on college campuses.

After installing Safe Trek, the user has the option of activating and holding down a button on his or her smartphone whenever he or she feels unsafe. Pressing the button activates a GPS signal that can track the user’s location.

When the user feels safe enough to deactivate the button, the app gives him or her 10 seconds to enter a PIN. If it isn’t entered, the app automatically connects the phone to a local dispatch center so police can communicate with the user and track his or her whereabouts.

Safe Trek offers an alternative to emergency systems on campuses such as MU’s blue light system, which has emergency contact phones placed throughout campus. With Safe Trek installed on their phones, students wouldn’t have to worry about making it to the nearest phone in case of an emergency.

Beattie, a business major, told the MU Engineering website that his former job with MU inspired Safe Trek’s conception.

“I used to work for New Student Programs, and the No. 1 question parents would ask is, ‘How do I know my student is going to be safe when I send them to Mizzou?’” he says. “That was the challenge we were faced with.”

Beattie says they are aiming for a release date of Aug. 1 for the MU campus. He says they have a few small changes they’d like to make to the app before they release it for student use.

“Our main priority is having the app available for download for anyone in the Columbia area before students start moving in for the fall semester,” he says.

The app will make its debut on Windows 8, but it will also be available for iOS and Android devices. The team wants to distribute the app to other universities and has gotten interest from some already.

“We’ve been receiving interest from other campuses and police departments, and we plan on attending a few conferences in the coming weeks to begin reaching out to other interested parties,” Beattie says.

In addition to Safe Trek, there are several safety-oriented apps available for purchase now. For example, Circle of 6 allows you to choose six trusted contacts, and, when activated, the app will send out a mass alert telling those contacts that you are in an unsafe situation. Another, the Hollaback app, was developed specifically to report gender-based violence and harassment. The latest contribution from MU promises to join the ranks and make the world a little safer with some simple technology.

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