Yellow sign that reads "risks ahead"

Movies and make-believe may teach you that taking risks is the only way to get things done, leaping into danger and dynamically charging through all opposition to achieve everything you ever wanted in 90 minutes or less. But that’s because they’re movies. And usually Bruce Willis. He can do that.

In reality, even a slight scuffle can destroy your productivity for days or weeks, to say nothing of being so extraordinarily unpleasant that the word “unpleasant” really doesn’t do it justice, even when you use the massive adjective “extraordinarily.” Because we’re not Batman, we can’t shrug off these scares. However, we can at least pretend we’re him while using gadgets to improve our security.

1. SpotCrime

SpotCrime combines the Internet, crowd-sourced criminal reports and Augmented Reality to let you see the world like RoboCop. The site can overlay recent crime data on any map, instantly warning anyone on a business trip which areas they shouldn’t blunder into.

And this isn’t just glorified gossip. SpotCrime is signing deals with police services around the world to constantly improve the quality and amount of information available on the service. It seems the police understand that preventing crime is easier than cleaning things up afterwards.


Of course there’s now an app — the ubiquitous iPhone offers a range of security services (as well as increasing the use of the word “ubiquitous” because of the way it really is becoming the mass market personal portable computer). Simply enter the desired location and you can see the criminal map or even overlay event locations on a live feed from your camera. (Though the whole point of the service is making sure you’re never close enough to do that, or that you at least know not to wave expensive electronics in the air if you are.)

2. SafetyButton and Anylarm

SafetyButton does exactly what it says in the title: it turns your iPhone touchscreen into an instant alert button.

Safety Button and Anylarm

Cupertino’s implications to the contrary aside, Windows users are people too and also deserve protection. CaptureTech Corporation’s Anylarm provides the same service for Windows phones, programming a pressable button (or even the shake sensor on suitable cell phones) to act as an alert beacon.

Both alarms send a message (with GPS co-ordinates) to a predetermined number. There are a number of options to help avoid false alarms and you’ll want to make sure you really check your messages if you’re using this system!

3. Are You Safe

Are You Safe is advertised as the Geiger counter of crime. That’s the sort of tagline that’ll get press with us any day of the week.

Are You Safe

The apps are cheap (a dollar), though each one only serves a single city. If you move or travel, you have to buy a new location-specific copy. There’s also the psychological danger of trying to get a high-score on the meter, an extremely human urge which we implore you to resist the way you would if it was a real Geiger counter. Getting the needle all the way to the right is a very bad thing.

4. iWitness

iWitness offers the same services as the above, uploading GPS and alert data to pre-determined number, but it adds an extremely useful group function. Instead of stepping straight to alerting friends or authorities, a distributed group can set their iWitness apps as an “Alert Group,” instantly signaling each other with a message and location.


A godsend for anyone who has to administer a group in a strange place, iWitness also has the iReporter function (enabling users to upload pictures or recordings). Use it to inform up to 16 people of places, concerns or simple status messages.

Image credit: DNY59 / iStockphoto