NUGuardian, Northwestern’s new app, turns your phone into a personal safety device


Daily file photo by Madison Smith

The Arch. Northwestern recently unveiled the NUGuardian app to turn smartphones into personal safety devices.

Maya Ravi, Reporter

Northwestern has partnered with Rave Mobile Safety to launch NUGuardian, a free safety app that turns smartphones into personal safety devices. 

The app features a virtual safety timer and allows students to designate existing contacts as “Guardians” who can access details about where the student is walking and how long they are expected to take, according to Student Affairs’ website. Users can also find a single-click 911 button to reach emergency services. 

Rave Senior Vice President of Strategic Programs Todd Miller said the app’s privacy makes it well suited for the university environment. Only selected Guardians will be alerted of the user’s location, he said, so University oversight will not be a problem.

“The information in that timer’s not shared with the school,” Miller said. “So you’re able to keep your friends and family up to date (on) where you are, or that you’re safe.”

In the timer section of the app, users are prompted to select Guardians for their trip. Then, users set a timer based on how long they estimate their trip will take, press the start button and leave. Once the timer is activated, the app sends a notification to the user’s Guardians notifying them of the trip details and giving them access to the user’s current location. 

The app notifies the user when their time is almost up, at which point the user can easily add or subtract time from their session depending on how long their trip is taking. Once the user has reached their destination, they can end the session, which sends a final notification to their Guardians and stops streaming the user’s location.

If the user does not respond when their timer expires, the app will send the user’s Guardians a notification with their location information and a prompt to check on the user. 

Associate Vice President of Wellness and Dean of Students Mona Dugo said the University launched NUGuardian after the former Safe Walk app for students became incompatible with Android phones. Now, she said, students can use NUGuardian with any cell provider, any phone plan and with Wi-Fi. 

Dugo said it was important to the administration that students’ information remains private to their chosen Guardians.

“(Associated Student Government) asked the Dean of Students Office and Department of Safety and Security to develop a solution that didn’t include police involvement as a first step,” Dugo said. “Students asked us for a student-to-student option.”

While useful, Dugo said she doesn’t expect NUGuardian to replace other safety measures like the blue light emergency phone system, 911 or Safe Ride. But the app is “one tool in a toolkit” to keep students safe, she said. 

“For students who choose to use NUGuardian, it offers a way to engage family and friends in ensuring students have a trusted source who can ‘keep an eye on them’ as they walk to their destination,” Dugo said. 

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