Kitestring

By: Sarah Jackson

In a big city like San Francisco, there’s often one person in a group who says “call me when you get home so I know you made it safe” when everyone heads home late. Now, there’s an app for that. Well, not quite an app, but a free web-based service that’s easy to use for all smart phones, not just iPhones and Androids. Kitestring is an innovative way to make San Franciscans safer.

Stephan Boyer, a 23 year-old computer science grad student at MIT, created Kitestring to help ensure the safety of his girlfriend who lived in San Francisco. His girlfriend asked him to check up on her as she was walking home from work one day, and he explains, “I wondered if there might be an app or service that could offer a little extra safety for when she goes out at night.” Since the February 2014 launch of Kitstring, he’s heard a lot of success stories from users, including mountain hikers, online dating users, and the elderly.

How Kitestring Works

Kitestring is a simple, web-based service with free and inexpensive plans. The service notifies your set emergency contacts if you don’t respond to Kitestring’s text messages. The first step is to sign up for Kitestring online. Depending on which plan you opt for, you then input your emergency contact numbers. So, the next time you’re going out for the night or getting off work late, you can text Kitestring the time you expect to be home, and when your ETA rolls around, Kitestring will send your phone a text message to confirm you made it home safe. When you receive the confirmation text, you either: (1) Reply okay if you’re home, or (2) Reply with how much longer it will take to get home if your trip is taking longer than expected. If you don’t reply at all, your emergency contacts receive a text message saying you may be in danger.

Since Kitestring doesn’t use GPS, unlike other safety apps, it is important to input your starting point. The lack of GPS allows the service to be free and available for all mobile users, not just for smart phones. For added protection, users can customize the message that is sent to your contacts with custom check-in and duress codes. This extra protection is useful in certain circumstances, such as if there’s an incident with an attacker. Personalized messages would provide protection against an attacker picking up your phone and texting your contacts that you’re okay. It seems Kitestring has thought of everything to make it safer for people who are out late.

How It’s Different From Other Safety Apps

In the world of personal safety apps, Kitestring is innovative for its reliance on inaction. During an attack, if you don’t have the time or clarity to pull out your phone, input your password, and press a button, you’re covered. It’s different from bSafe, which provides you with a button on your phone for emergencies, or from Nirbhaya, which requires you shake your phone to notify someone you are in trouble. In another app Circle of 6, when your in danger, you must press a “danger” button, but the app does not notify the authorities. Circle of 6 links you to a hotline for victims of sexual or domestic abuse. The genius of Kitestring is that users don’t have to do anything on their phone to let someone know they may be in trouble. Kitestring does it all.

In addition, many of the other safety apps do not come cheap, and include an upfront cost to, for example, download the app. Red Panic Button and Staysafe have download fees. For Kitestring users, the basic service free and does not require a download at the app store. The interface is also very simple to use and not cluttered with extra features and icons.

Kitstring is helping to make San Franciscans safer. This is what 2.0 looks like, using innovative technology to make San Francisco a safer place to live. Take advantage of this creative approach to personal safety apps and register with Kitestring here today.