“Personal safety is a necessity for people, not a luxury,” said Vincent Wong, Business Development Manager of Malaysia-based company SecQ.me. Pronounced ‘Secure Me’, the startup was incorporated by James Khoo in 2011, and launched an eponymous mobile tracking app, which eventually got renamed to Watch Over Me.
With the app, users can track activities, and should they not check in within a certain time period, the service sends an SMS or email to the assigned emergency contact. The smartphone’s GPS also switches on.
Available on Android and iOS, the app usually costs MYR 80 (US$24.27) a year; however, until January 31, Malaysians can use the full service for MYR 36 (US$ 10.92) a year – just MYR 0.10 a day. Premium features include unlimited number of emergency contacts and SMSes, as compared to having one emergency contact and up to five SMSes per month on the free version.
Wong told e27 that it was actually the government of Malaysia’s recent expenditure of MYR 1 billion on developing the SaveMe999 app to replace the existing MyDistress app that inspired them to reduce the pricing for Watch Over Me. He said, “We want to prove that a personal safety app does not cost that much, and it should be affordable.”
He also noted that Watch Over Me has 135,000 users at the moment, and the firm aims to hit half a million users by end-2014. While he cannot disclose the number of times users have sent an emergency request to a contact via the app, he said that 20 per cent of users register at least three events each week.
Recently, the company also brought on board Chin Xin-Ci, a Co-founder who managed to escape from a failed kidnapping incident.
Interestingly, a user prevented a crime with the app some time last March. A testimonial reads, “Someone tried to take my phone and car keys and I told him my phone was on ‘Watch Over Me’ mode and would track him and video him. He looked at me like I was crazy. I got a video of him and told him the police had it now, and he ran away!”
Even though the app is targeted at women, 25 per cent of Watch Over Me users are actually men. In addition, the app sees 75 per cent of its users come from Malaysia, followed by 12 per cent from Singapore, five per cent from the US, five per cent from Australia, and three per cent from other countries.
Does Watch Over Me only ‘watch over’ potential kidnappings, and not robberies and non-abduction cases? The app can help locate people who might have been robbed, raped or involved in an accident. It can help friends and family reach out to the victim and report the crime, said Wong.