BY CATHERINE FAVORITE
We had a chance to pick the brain of one of the business minds behind the bSafe smart phone app, Nils Knagenhjelm. Created by Bipper, (the makers of smart phone safety apps), “bSafe”, among other things, allows the user to alert selected contacts of their whereabouts, in case they find themselves in a threatening situation, with a simple touch of a button. Nils shared his insights behind bSafe, as well as his inspiration for working for Bipper.
Why did you decide to work for Bipper?
About 3 years ago, my wife (who is American) had a scary experience while we were on vacation in my hometown of Oslo, Norway. She had been out to dinner with my sister-in-law and was going to take a taxi from the restaurant to my parents’ house less than one mile away. However, the cab driver decided to ignore my wife’s instructions and got onto the high-way heading out of town. She told the driver to turn around, but he insisted he knew where he was going even though the 2 minute ride had turned into 10. She was lost and scared, but told the driver (who barely spoke English) my sister- in-law had the cab number and was expecting a call from her as soon as she returned home.
The driver then mentioned he mistakenly had the wrong address, made a u-turn and 10 minutes later dropped my wife off at the correct address.
First thing we agreed on after this episode was to always carry a cell-phone, but we also saw a need for an alarm or location device of some sort. Coincidentally I was introduced to Silje and Bipper shortly after and I was intrigued by the start-up that wanted to develop mobile solutions to increase personal safety for kids and families. This was a company I could relate to and I wanted to be part in making these solutions available to everyone.
What do you think inspired the founder of Bipper, Silje Vallestad, to create this smart phone application?
Silje has, as many other women, experienced uncomfortable and frightening situations and had her own personal reasons for developing a solution that made it easier to alert people if they felt threatened. It was initially a feature that was included in a mobile parental control solutions we developed (Silje’s own kids was the motivation for developing that solution) We got lots of feed-back from mothers (including Silje) who mentioned that they would take their kid’s phone when they went out at night for walks etc because of the safety alarm. When Silje was named Female Entrepreneur of the year in Norway last year she decided to use the prize money to develop bSafe and to make it available to everyone for free.
One of the options of the bSafe application, the “Risk Mode”, is that it notifies the user of dangerous areas. What sort of data does the bSafe application use to determine the level of “danger” in an area?
The risk mode feature has actually been renamed “Follow Me” to better describe its purpose (we are working on a feature more in line with how you have explained it…). “Follow Me” is a helpful feature for those who are walking home or jogging alone. Select those Guardians you want to follow you and they will receive link to trace you live. bSafe can be set to automatically activate the alarm if you have not checked-in in time.
Smart phones are a great resource for protecting ourselves when we’re alone, in public (whether through enabling us to take photos of a street harasser, or having an emergency button that alerts contacts of our exact location). Do you see any potential for victim blaming (if, for example, someone had this app on their phone, but did not use it in the event of an assault)?
Unfortunately victim blaming is an issue in itself. It’s hard to say who is more exposed to that. Those who have bSafe kind of apps but for some reason don’t use it, or those that get assaulted but have no emergency app, pepper-spray or other self protection devices.
How do you think this application empowers women and the LGBTQ community, in particular?
Everyone has the right to be and feel safe, unfortunately that is not the case, which is why great initiatives like yours are launched. BSafe was developed to make people feel safer when walking alone and to give them confidence and security against threats and dangerous situations.
Knowing that you are surrounded by a network of Guardians should be a comforting feeling when you are walking alone. The ability to alert them makes you feel safer and that they can see where you are or follow your movements to make sure you get home ok adds a level of security.
With bSafe you never walk alone……….