Sometimes we forget to utilise the innovative technologies that already exist and that are at our fingertips. In this blog, Polly Britton reminds us of the power of mobile phone innovation for personal safety.

Recent events in the news have sparked a national conversation about the feeling of anxiety that many people feel while walking alone at night, particularly women. Both men and women can be the victim of assault, so everyone can benefit from these five tips to keep yourself safe, using technology that you probably carry with you everywhere.

1. WhatsApp Live Location

The popular instant messaging app has a feature that allows you to share your location with a contact. While texting a friend, if you tap the paperclip “attach” icon, then “Location”, then “Share live location”, you can let your friend track your GPS signal for the next 15 minutes, 1 hour, or 8 hours. That way, they will be able to make sure you reach your destination safely and seek help on your behalf if not.

2. Use your phone as a phone!

A potential attacker is less likely to target someone who is in the middle of a phone call. If you fear someone is following you, or you just want to feel safer generally, you can always put your phone to your ear and pretend to be having a conversation. Better yet, you can actually call a friend or family member, just to catch up. They will probably be delighted by the opportunity for an impromptu chat with you, even if it’s late at night.

3. Dial 999

Depending on your country, the emergency services number will vary, but dialling the number on your phone will grant you an advantage if you are confronted. Showing that you are serious about reporting an aggressor’s behaviour to the police immediately can get you out of a dangerous situation.

4. Start a Livestream

It’s not for everyone, but if you’re a person who really likes to talk, you could try live streaming on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter or Twitch. If any of these apps are installed on your phone, you probably have the capability to start a livestream with just a few taps. Talk about your night-out, review the last film you watched, or reveal your deepest hopes and dreams.

Just like the fake phone call, it will discourage aggressors, even if no one is watching your stream. And if you’re good at it, and you do it regularly, you might even build an audience!

Of course, putting your face out on the internet has its own risks associated with it, which are not the subject of this blog, so be careful if you do try this one.

5. Take a photo

Capturing someone’s face (or just their outfit or vehicle) is likely to make them think twice about doing anything illegal. You could even send the photo to a friend over WhatsApp or Facebook, or again, just pretend to.

Many smartphones have a shortcut key to open the camera app quickly, so you may not have to fumble around with menus to take a picture or video. Take a moment to check if your phone has this feature. Aside from helping you get out of a dangerous situation, it’s useful whenever you find yourself in a fleeting moment you would like to capture.

Taking someone’s photo without their permission is legal in a public place, but be warned: it will probably irritate them. If they are not in a rational state of mind, it could have the opposite of the intended effect, so please be careful.

This advice isn’t comprehensive, and there’s much more that can be done to protect people on the streets, but we hope you can use these tips to be safer if you do find yourself alone and feeling nervous.