My phone saved my life

In this post, I explore how digitalization is affecting home invasions and home safety.

This week I listened to a podcast called Two Hot Takes that analyzed the “let’s not meet” subreddit. This subreddit discusses near kidnapping/death experiences, especially from a female perspective. One particular story stood out to me. It was about security apps which made me think just how far we have come in terms of safety technology, a by-product of digitalization that I personally often take for granted.

The Evolution of Home Security

As a kid, I never had security at the front of my mind. I was used to my parents taking care of me and never felt unsafe at home since I knew they were there. However, I remember when this sense of security changed. My grandparents had come to stay with us for a couple of weeks and had given my aunt the keys to their house so she could water their plants. Then, one day she called them explaining someone had torn through the lock on their metal shutters and stolen some of my grandma’s jewelry and other valuables. Since then, I became more aware that one needed to make their home safe from outsiders; it didn’t just magically happen. This is an experience that I am sure is very widely relatable on a global scale. Many companies have been making window sensors that can be locked, home security systems with password-operated alarms, and more.

There are also threats outside of the home. For example, banks have SOS “panic” buttons. These are silent alarms that can be pressed by the employees to alert authorities of a robbery taking place. There are also motion sensor systems in company buildings that house merchandise and many many more. One way the average person approaches security is by using apps. Find my friends is one popular app that links different phones and tracks them using GPS signals. While searching what other self-security and home security apps there are I came across an article on Security Nerd that lists all the top security apps even including pros and cons for each. I would highly reccomend reading the article if you are interested in seeing what systems are out there. Generally, they all had 3 basic features:

  1. The possibility of installing cameras and linking them to your phone.
  2. Tracking for all household members.
  3. Phone, occular and radar sensors that are enableled when there is no one home.

The app that the following story is about is called life 360 and it focuses on family saftety. Like many of the aformentioned apps it uses GPS tracking to view family member’s whereabouts.

Screenshot of Life 360 features

My Life 360 app saved my life

Before I summarize the story, it’s important to know that I will be referring to the poser on the subreddit as op (original poster) to enforce anonymity.

The podcast hosts told the story of a woman (op) who was home alone. With her 360 app op had seen that her husband was leaving the office and was 45 minutes away. She had gone to run a bath when she heard creaking downstairs. Op assumed her husband had come back faster than usual and called out that she was “just upstairs taking a bath”. Then, when she went to change the music on her phone she realized that the life 360 app hadn’t notified her that someone else was in the house. Op soon understood that it must be an intruder downstairs but now the intruder knew there was someone else there. She stuck a chair against her bedroom doorknob and checked her app. Her husband was driving and still very far from home. Luckily, op’s bedroom window was directly above her shed and she was able to jump down into her garden from there. Then, as she was sneaking to the backdoor of the garden she looked into her kitchen window and saw there was a man staring back at her and he was armed. She ran to her neighbor’s house and called the police. Later when she came home after the police searched the place, op saw that the door she had secured against her desk chair was severely scratched, meaning that the intruder had tried to get inside her bedroom.

This event would have gone very differently if she did not have the life 360 app and it serves as a reminder that home security is incredibly important as one doesn’t know when one’s life could be put in danger. I personally have the find my friends app and use it any time I go out at night. With the recent assaults and kidnappings of women in places like the UK it is becoming increasingly valuable to use your phone’s applications as a means of protection. These apps may not be physically visible but as we see from the story above, they can save your life.