Many of us know the uneasy feeling that comes with being out and about on our own late at night. AXA’s WayGuard app can help, by seeing those who are out late at night safely home. In Switzerland, where the app has been available since 2019, the digital companion service is currently being used by more than 28,000 people.
Around 90 percent of women sometimes feel uncomfortable if they are on their way home alone late at night, going through an underpass or jogging in a forest, according to a representative survey by AXA in 2019. More than three quarters of the men surveyed also said they sometimes felt uneasy when heading home alone after a night out. People reported feeling particularly uneasy if a stranger is behind them and the streets are badly lit.
The WayGuard app, which accompanies women and men to their front door, has been available in Switzerland since 2019. It offers a 24-hour service that can be used in a variety of situations: When the app is activated, it is there in the background for the whole journey so that users feel safe and can call for help if trouble arises. Users can be accompanied virtually or by phone by friends, family members, or specially trained WayGuard employees. On the journey home the app shares the user’s current position with their companions, and the users inform them when they have reached home safely.
The app was developed by AXA Germany in 2016 with the support of the Cologne Police and has since attracted more than 420,000 users. Here in Switzerland, too, there is lively interest: The digital companion service currently has more than 28,000 users in this country. Night-time revelers have been accompanied home by WayGuard on around 52,000 occasions so far, and on a further 10,000 occasions people have chosen personal accompaniment, i.e. by a contact in their phone book or by the control center. On average that’s around 300 virtual and 50 personal accompaniments a week, with the latter being undertaken more often by the person’s own contacts than by the control center.
Among Swiss users, women make up around 56 percent of the total, while 17 percent of those registered are men (27 percent have not provided any information on gender). Almost 23,000 people, or just under half of all those registered in Switzerland, are aged between 19 and 36.
“As a companion app, WayGuard’s aim is to give a sense of security to all those who feel uneasy on their way home. From the AXA study we know that many people reach for their phone and call someone when they are feeling uneasy, or even just pretend to be on the phone. With WayGuard, there is a professional control center there in the background which can be reached at any time to provide support in an emergency,” explains Claudia Bienentreu, Head of Open Innovation at AXA Switzerland.
If there is an actual emergency, WayGuard solves a crucial problem: Many people in an emergency situation find it hard to describe their precise location. Using the GPS data transmitted in the emergency call, the control center can quickly coordinate help. In a critical case, the emergency call goes to the local police department which can provide immediate assistance, as it has precise details of the location.
Luckily, real emergencies have been few and far between so far: Across the whole of Switzerland there have been 124 SOS calls – but many of these were test calls or made inadvertently.
The WayGuard companion app for iPhone and Android is available to download free from the App Store and Play Store and can be used by anyone who is interested. It also provides specific tips for late-night revelers on how best to plan their journey home or discourage intrusive individuals. The app is available in German and in English.
Representative online survey of 500 people in German-speaking Switzerland aged between 15 and 40 carried out by AXA Switzerland between October 9 and 14, 2019 on perceived safety in public spaces.