Could an app help to prevent sexual and physical assault?
2019-06-12 15:52

As we become more reliant on the internet to help us with every aspect of our daily lives, we are also becoming increasingly dependent on technology to keep us safe. 

There are many ways we look to tech for reassurance — relying on navigation tools such as Google Maps to take us home, taxi apps like Uber to get a late-night ride, group chats likes Whatsapp to stay in touch, or location-tracking tools like Find My Friends to check where friends or family are at any given time. 

One new app in this area is Bthere — aimed at those aged 18-22, it looks to help young people, particularly those at university, avoid dangerous situations by encouraging them to stay together on a night out. 

Bthere was conceptualised by law graduate Ben Johanson, who has worked with Texas-based design studio Handsome, with the main aim of reducing sexual assault cases that happen on college campuses in the US — but the resulting app is a general safety-in-numbers tool, which could be used by any group of friends to help avoid any kind of crime or precarious situation. 


科技已经从诸多方面为我们带来了安全保证——比如我们靠谷歌地图等导航工具找到回家的路,优步等打车工具作为深夜里的代步车,whatsapp等群聊工具来与人保持联系,或者还有像Find My Friends一类的定位工具可以让我们在任何时间掌握家人和朋友的位置信息。


Bthere的设计构想是由法律毕业生Ben Johanson提出的。开发过程由他与德克萨斯州的Handsome设计工作室共同完成。主要目的是为了减少美国大学校园里性侵事件的发生。最终的研发成果产出了一个大众适用的多人聚集保障安全的工具。通过建立好友群组来避免有可能造成犯罪的不安全因素。


It has been designed as a hybrid messaging, location-sharing and rewards app, with the aim of creating an enticing tool that students will want to use to keep in touch with each other. 

Users sign up and create “circles” with friends, family or housemates, which can either be permanent or temporary, such as for a specific night out. 

This group then creates a map that shows everyone’s location at any given time, with an emoji of their choice next to it. It has a group messaging function, provides status updates on each individual user such as their phone battery life and current address, and has a one-tap “come get me” button if someone needs help. 

“It became apparent that knowing where your close friends are and being able to communicate with them had to be at the core of the app,” says Brandon Termini, design partner of creative at Handsome. “Competitor apps on the market favoured either location or chat in isolation — there wasn’t one that married the two successfully.” 

On top of this, the app “rewards” users for every minute they spend with people in their circles in real life, in the form of discounts at local retail and food places. 



在这个群里会生成一张地图,地图上显示了每位群成员的实时位置,并用emoji图标标出了附近的安全地带。 群消息的功能则是提供每位群成员的状态更新,包括他们的实时位置和手机电池电量。界面上还有一键“找到我”按钮,如果有人需要帮助即可按下这个按钮。

“很明显这个APP功能的核心就是可以让你知道好朋友的定位并和他保持联系,” Handsome工作室的联合创意设计师Brandon Termini说,“市面上的其他app要么只有定位功能,要么只有聊天功能, 目前还没有能将两者结合的比较好的产品。”



The app’s maps have been designed to use as little battery as possible, says Termini, to prevent people’s phone batteries draining quickly, while users receive notifications if a friend’s phone drops below 10%. It also tracks the last known location of a user if their phone does die. 

A pin-drop function aims to encourage friends to keep track of each other throughout the night, and ultimately go to the same places, described by Termini as a “kind of bar crawl generator”. The pin-drop comes in the form of a colourful, piñata donkey icon — which is also the brand’s logo — and users will get rewarded points if they follow their friends to their tagged locations, incentivising people to stick together. 

“With the core element of Bthere being togetherness and safety in numbers, we integrated redeemable points for friends for simply spending time together,” says Termini. 

The user interface of the app is colourful, using a bright palette of pink, cyan, purple and yellow, a range of illustrations and line-drawn graphic icons for a few, limited menu options. This includes a little donkey head to place a piñata pin-drop, a camera to take a photo to post in a group message, a speech bubble to access messages, and a exclamation mark to notify others for help. 

Termini还说,APP的地图功能在设计时做了耗电量优化,防止电量消耗过快,他们尽可能地降低了地图的耗电量。如果有群成员的手机电量剩不到10%时,其他成员会收到通知。 并且APP可以追踪到用户手机电量耗尽关机前的最后位置。


“Bthere的核心思想就是让朋友们在一起,以此来保证安全。为此我们为用户线下待在一起的时间设置了可兑换的积分制。” Termini说。


Termini says that, given its serious and sombre intentions of preventing sexual and physical assault, the app had to be “visually pleasing and a comforting experience to use”, and appear more “nuanced” than purely a crime preventative measure. 


While the main demographic is those aged 18-22 at universities and colleges, the app could be used by any group of friends or family who want to stay in contact with each other. It is currently only available to download in the US. 


Ultimately, the app has two aims — to keep young people safe but also to give them a rewarding incentive to spend more time together in real life, through harnessing the power of digital, says Termini. 


“While several apps reward users for spending time on the app itself, this was more about giving points for spending time together in a physical location,” he says. “The execution was simple: create a circle of friends, and the more time people spend together, the more points they get. 

“现在很多APP都会通过积分奖励来鼓励用户花时间在APP自身上,而我们用积分鼓励人们回归现实生活。”他说, “这执行起来也很简单,用户建立自己的好友圈,花越多的时间与朋友相聚,就能获得越多积分。”

“It looks to address the significant public safety issue on college campuses and was designed to protect students when they’re most vulnerable. We wanted to create a fun and engaging way for them to stay connected.” 


Bthere is currently available to download from the App and Google Play stores in the US.


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