WatchOverMe: The Mobile Watchdog App, Protecting Over 140k Users With Twilio SMS


XinChiIn May of 2012, Xin Chi (pictured right)was held at knifepoint and thrown into the trunk of her car by kidnappers while running errands in a mall in Kuala Lumpur. After narrowly escaping, she dedicated herself to finding a way to protect women in their day to day life.

Months after her kidnapping attempt, Xin Chi founded WatchOverMe, a mobile watchdog app with over 140,000 users, dedicated to keeping men and women safe through proactive alerts.

The first incarnation of WatchOverMe served as a personal bodyguard to alert family, friends and authorities when you’re in danger. Now, Xin and her team are focusing on a more proactive approach — steering users clear of dangers they didn’t know were there.

The Meteoric Rise Of WatchOverMe

With the help of co-founder James Khoo, Xin launched the WatchOverMe mobile app in October of 2012.  WatchOverMe gives users a discreet way to protect themselves using something they’ll never leave the house without–their phones. For a watchdog, WatchOverMe draws little attention. You can keep the app running with your phone in your pocket, purse or backpack.

Here’s how the app works: users set a time duration for events like shopping or walking home alone. If they don’t check in and mark the event as complete when the time is up, the app starts tracking their location via GPS and alerts family and police via Twilio SMS.

Within months of their launch, the app spread like wildfire.

WatchOverMe was the most downloaded app in the Malaysian iTunes app store (beating out Waze, Twitter, Instragram, Skype and Facebook). It was the second most downloaded app in Singapore and 10th in Australia.


The Expansion: From Reactive to Proactive

Xin Chi heard countless stories from users detailing how WatchOverMe helped them get out of dangerous situations. But, she wanted the app to go one step further and help users avoid danger altogether. But how do you accurately predict danger before it happens? And how do you prevent it? WatchOverMe found the answer in video recording and data mining.

The Power of Video

screen568x568Xin Chi recalls a review a user submitted in the app store. “She said she was walking home and when someone tried to attack her,” Xin says the user pulled out her phone, shook it, triggered WatchOverMe’s video recording and told her attacker that the police know who he is now. The attacker ran away before she was harmed.”

Xin Chi hopes that users never have to use the app’s new emergency video recording feature. But, in the heat of an emergency, video can be a powerful tool.

It’s unlikely you’ll have the time or clarity to enter your phone’s unlock code, open an app, and press record when you’re in danger. WatchOverMe lets you trigger video recording by simply shaking your phone. The video you record automatically uploads to the app’s remote server and can be used help find you, or identify your attackers.

Preventing Danger With Data

To prevent users from getting it the type of situation where they’d have to use an emergency video feature, WatchOverMe began a long and arduous data hunt. The team found the data they needed to build their proactive app feature. But, the data was static and scattered, like a string of islands. To make the data useful to users, they had to connect the islands and pull it all together into their app. The team scraped crime reports, crime statistics, crime maps and even Twitter hashtags to get the insight they needed.

Now WatchOverMe can alert you via push notification or text when you’re walking into an area you should avoid. If the worst case scenario happens, you can rely on the app to pinpoint your location and alert authorities.

In just two short years, Xin Chi and her team built an app to give users the power of personal safety. In building the app, Xin Chi regained her own sense of personal safety that she lost in 2012. It’s something that she’s committing to protecting for herself and for her growing base of users.

Read WatchOverMe’s feature story in FastCo here and learn more about how organizations like Thorn are using SMS to fight human trafficking here