We rely on our phones for many things, but what about when you’re walking down a dark street and are confronted by a bad guy? We’ve seen a few apps come out of local entrepreneurs, such as recently Finland’s BiiSafe button and earlier Norway’s bSafe app (no relation), but a few Malmö-based self defense experts new to the tech scene have taken a fresh approach to helping you use your phone in moments when you need it most.
Armen Doslic has been doing martial arts and self defense all his life, starting with karate, judo, and then building an interest in more realistic self defense with Krav Maga, the defense philosophy popularized by the Israeli defense forces. Through Krav Maga, Doslic met Marcus Persson, who has been working 10 years in the security business and now runs a security operation with 40 employees.
As leaders in the self defense space in Malmö, training everyone from the police to the Swedish armed forces, Doslic and Persson got invited to a local school as a project to teach street smartness tactics and to give kids the confidence to not be afraid when confronted.
“It was a nice area and nice kids, but a couple times every week kids from the hardest areas took jackets and shoes. Every time they called the police they would come in 20 minutes because it wasn’t urgent- and they never got their things back.”
As part of the program they took pictures with the students, and they noticed that in the photo nearly all the boys and girls had cellphones in their hands. “It’s like part of their body. They use cellphones all the time, what if we could develop some tips? Maybe there’s a good application that could help them,” Doslic explained.
After doing some research to see if there were any good apps out there for these kids to use, they couldn’t find any that would be practical in the field. After years of teaching self defense, they had a more intimate knowledge of the thought process and practical movements a panicked person would use in a stressful situation than perhaps the average coder. So one day with this idea kicking around in his head Doslic described the features of this hypothetical app to his girlfriend, who was busy cooking dinner. She responded “yeah, where can I download it?” which gave him the motivation to move things forward.
The two didn’t know really anything about application development, and started off buying the “application development for dummies” book. Luckily they also had Stefan Madsen, CEO of the Copenhagen-based startup Echo.it in their network, and got him to also point them in the right direction. The two raised some money from friends and family and now having a working app out on the market called AllForOne, an app available for iOS and Android.
Alert, distract, and document One of the main features of the app is creating a sense of community by alerting nearby users of the app that you’re in trouble when the button is pressed. This is in contrast to the other personal security apps on the market that call or text three of your loved ones, for example. While it’s good to be in touch with someone you trust, they could be 50km away, and unable to do anything useful.
“The main thing is when you want to feel safer, you activate the alarm – all the users near you get a push notification and can see your location on the map. What we wanted to create was something like a lot of witnesses that can come to your rescue. Not to fight, but maybe to scare the assailant,” says Persson.
The app will also hopefully distract the attacker and draw attention from other people in the area by flashing the iPhone’s strobe light and blasting a loud alarm. This hopefully will help you not get your phone stolen, you need to input a code to shut it off.
When the alarm is started, the app starts recording video and sound, and sends that info to three or four of your friends, as well puts that information into their secure server.
The app has a few more tricks up its sleeve. For example, they’ve focused on big, familiar movements for turning on the alarm. Instead of digging through the app to find a button, you just gotta open it up and swipe the bottom line of the screen – exactly like what you do dozens of times a day to unlock your phone – to turn on the alarm. When you’re stressed, your body has a tougher time doing more percise movements, so it’s best to focus on big “macro” movements, explains Doslic.
The app is unique in the sense that they’re experts in the self defense field, and have also worked closely with the police to determine what kind of evidence they can collect to help track down assailants. The app isn’t just for kids who are getting their backpacks stolen, so far they’ve seen the most growth around Malmö, where they’ve appeared on the radio and gotten a good bump in the press. But the fundamentals of the app seem strong – in the statistics they’ve gathered, 25% of respondents were afraid to go out in Malmö, but 75% were willing to be helpers – just have the app installed to receive push notifications whenever someone needs a hand.