News, Insights and Stories from the Australian and New Zealand tech ecosystem.

Perth startup Mi Vista has created a personal safety app looking to help women and men alike stay safe

The beauty of the mobile phone, and particularly the smartphone, is that it lets users keep others up to speed on their whereabouts. It used to be that kids would get their first phone when they went off to high school and had to catch public transport alone for the first time, with the phone giving parents the peace of mind that their child could reach them if they were in trouble. Women too have a range of personal safety apps available to them to help them feel at least that little bit safer walking home alone at night.

But Shannon Cloy, founder of personal safety app Mi Vista, knows better than most that it isn’t just women who need to be aware of their surroundings and given the peace of mind of knowing that someone will be able to find and help them if something goes wrong when they’re out. Cloy was stabbed outside a hotel nearly ten years ago, and despite multiple CCTV cameras both inside the venue and out, no footage of the offender was captured.

“With a lot of time on my hands to recover I began to think of various ways in which personal safety could be brought to a person. I wanted to help prevent anyone having to experience what I had to go through…it became a bit of an obsession before I came up with the idea of a personal safety app. I wanted a product that was easy to use and could collect potential evidence and send it instantly, however I had no idea how to bring it all to life and make it happen,” Cloy said.

“With the disappearance of Jill Meagher I noticed in the CCTV footage that it appeared she was using her mobile phone at the time she was being harassed. I later heard about another young girl walking late at night that had been harassed by a man in a car…reading about this incident, it was reported that at the time the girl was texting her friend about some guy in a car harassing her. These two unfortunate incidents pushed me to drive home the idea of Mi Vista, and I started to design screens and drawings on how it would work.”

Mi Vista allows users to create a list of contacts that can be notified of their whereabouts at any time through photographs and GPS tracking. There is a Social Mode which allows the users to update their contacts socially, letting them easily take and send a photo and enable location tracking if they wish.

If a situation was to change for the worse, with the app open the user can shake their phone or slide their finger across the screen to the right to switch MiVista into Emergency Mode. From here they can quickly take a photo which is immediately sent to pre-selected emergency contacts along with the user’s location. The user can also indicate that the emergency was of a medical nature, through which pre-entered medical information will also be sent. The emergency contact will in turn be able to view the image, the user’s location, and medical information if it was sent.

If a user manages to get out of the unsafe situation or sent a false alert they can enter a 4 digit code to update their status to ‘safe’. If they’re under duress to enter the code they can enter the wrong one, which will result in a critical alert being sent to their emergency contacts while the app will appear to operate as if the correct code was entered.

The tracking feature has two modes: the first allows users to send their specific location at one point in time either in a message or along with a photo, while the second, Vista-Trax shows the contacts where the user is currently located as well as recording the path they’ve taken, helping authorities retrace their steps and refine their search area in the event that something serious occurs.

Cloy, who has self funded the development of Mi Vista, said the process has been “so much bigger” than he ever imagined. With no background in technology, Cloy looked around for developers before linking up with Appster.

“I found myself travelling to Melbourne on a number of occasions, spending a few days at a time with the Appster team. Fondly enough on my second visit there I was walking the streets of Melbourne after a night out and got lost. Once I had returned to my hotel that night my mind could not shut off, leading me to design the Vista-Trax feature. Personally I found the development process exciting and new,” Cloy said.

Mi Vista is free to download and use for the first year, with an ongoing subscription cost at the end of the first year and thereafter. Subscriptions are offered to single users and to families comprising five years. Users can also promote the app to others, receiving a month free for every contact they sign up.

Cloy said the app is going strong around Australia, the US, the UK, and Mexico, with increasing interest from Asia. As well as social media, most of the app’s growth is coming from word of mouth.

With a whole host of personal safety apps and gadgets on the market, Mi Vista hopes to stand out by targeting a wider audience. Most products in the space, such as Moochies and Thread, are aimed at women and children – and for good reason – but Cloy’s own experience shows that safety is something we must all be conscious of.

“We were surprised by various stats around the world in regard to minor to serious crimes, medical conditions, and the amount of people that live alone. Everywhere we go we meet people that could find a reason to use Mi Vista, everyone had a story to tell where Mi Vista could have helped, and we want to help as many people as we can,” Cloy said.

“By making Mi Vista easy to use, we wish to cater to users of all ages; even my 102 year old grandmother was able to use it. Customer research found that many males between the ages of 15 and 28 believed that they did not need a safety app on their phone, however admitted that they would use Mi Vista to receive alerts from people they care about as well as use Mi Vista for its social features.”

The Mi Vista team is currently working on version two of the app, adding additional safety and social features.

Image: Shannon Cloy. Source: Provided.