Buddy Watch: A Buddy When You Need it Most

Buddy Watch is a personal safety smartphone app that uses GPS and accelerometer data to detect emergencies as they happen and respond to them automatically — even when the user can’t reach his or her phone. It’s receiving a ton of interest and  the app’s creator, UVA fourth year student Hannah Rosenfeld (Biology 2015), is on the verge of launching her app.

The app uses technology embedded into smartphones to assess what’s happening to the device when it is in a pocket or purse.  The app can determine if the user is violently shaken, or is walking and then suddenly begins moving at the pace of a car.

Hannah Rosenfeld was inspired by her own experience and own fears.  “I was walking past the IRC (International Residential College), which is very close to grounds.  Normally there are people around there, but that night there really weren’t and I felt on edge. This car drove up to me, slowed down, and a bunch of college-aged guys leaned out and yelled ‘Don’t get raped,’ and that was the moment when I thought ,‘What would I do?’ … and there wasn’t really a good answer for that.”

After talking to hundreds of students and dozens of police departments, she realized that her safety app would need to be triggered automatically — it needed a dead man’s switch, but a smart one.

Some applications are simply a panic button; some allow you to set a timer where, if you don’t reach your destination in the time given, the app goes into panic mode.  She said she would have to be lucky to be able to reach a panic button, and in an emergency she wouldn’t want to wait for a timer to run down.

Some big competition wins helped get Buddy Watch off the ground. Rosenfeld won AngelHack – Silicon Valley and was given a chance to be part of the 12 week HACKcelerator program (http://angelhack.com/hackcelerator/), which helped her turn Buddy Watch from an idea into a commercial venture.  The HACKcelerator led her to demo the app at Startlandia where it was personally vetted by Techmanity’s CEO, Tom Hayes, who said that Buddy Watch was one of the most disruptive and innovative startups of the year.http://www.techmanity.com/about-techmanity/

Rosenfeld’s company has interest from Singapore, India, Mexico, and France. The French government recently reached out to her about Buddy Watch, and she is in active dialogue with dozens of companies and governments around the globe.

She’s had some help along the way

“Everything we’ve done is because a lot of people wanted to see this happen, and they went out of their way and spent time helping us get there.”

Hannah spoke about Dana Junebacker, (http://danajunebaker.com/), an established graphic designer who volunteered to do the preliminary design work for the app because she’s personally invested in the mission of the company.

The UVA community also has hugely supported Rosenfeld.  “I had a ton of support from the people involved in Batten/policy and the new Social Entrepreneurship program, and they’re great, always asking how they can help.”

Tom Skalak, who just left the post of Vice President of Research, referred Rosenfeld to key people in The University who could her.  Michael Straightiff (http://innovation.virginia.edu/staff/profile/mps8j) also met with Rosenfeld and gave her “undeniably valuable” knowledge about the importance of the patent process and how it can help a business move forward. http://innovation.virginia.edu/staff/profile/mps8j

After all of the turmoil in the UVA community last semester concerning Hannah Graham’s disappearance and the Rolling Stone article, the need for Buddy Watch seemed to skyrocket overnight.  Rosenfeld said that there already was attention on Buddy Watch, but the events of last semester definitely put a spotlight on the app.  “There was far more attention, but also more pressure. She had pressure to release the app in the wake of the events last semester, but she knew that more time for needed to complete development and testing prior to full-scale commercialization..

If individuals would be relying on her product, Rosenfeld wanted it to be as technically sound as it could be.

She’s also spoken with Dean Groves and the Safety Committee about how to bolster the safety of UVA students.

The Next Step

Rosenfeld is considering taking  first round investment this summer and along with that, she’s releasing the beta very soon at UVA and other national universities.  Rosenfeld is currently looking at U Chicago, Berkley, Tufts, and UC Davis, in addition to UVA.

We would like to be the #1 personal safety application for college students.”  Buddy Watch also plans to expand into urban areas, as Rosenfeld not only wants the application to be useful to students on campus, but also the general population in communities everywhere.

If you are interested in learning more about this app, visit BuddyWatch.com and get on the BETA list for Buddy Watch HERE(Here’s a link to sign up for the beta: http://buddywatchinc.com/beabuddy), or to sign up free on your phone, text Buddy Watch to 50500.


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