Citizen’s new service helps paying customers call the police



Citizen, application which monitors local crime and allows users to record incidents as they occur, has launched a new subscription service. It’s called Protect and allows subscribers who pay a $ 20 monthly fee to contact the Citizen team of virtual security agents for help whenever they feel threatened.

Tuesday’s update marks a significant change in Citizen’s business, which has so far included sending free alerts to smartphones about nearby crimes and incidents. With this paid service, the company not only takes a step towards actively monitoring the security of users who increase the monthly fee, but also expands a service that privacy advocates have repeatedly considered excessive.

Protection works like the Life Alert button for your phone. If you are in danger, step forward, just tap the red Get Agent button inside the Citizen app and you will be connected to a video or text chat with the Protect agent. If you need help on the spot, the agent can call the police or other emergency services and direct them to your location. If you have emergency contacts where the Citizen app is also installed, the agent can contact those people in case you are disabled or are otherwise too busy resolving emergencies to respond.

This feature is only available to selected beta testers from the beginning of 2021, and today it is being introduced to update the app so that every Citizen user can log in.

The new version of the app can even listen to your screams. A feature available to subscribers called Distress Detection uses an algorithm to monitor the microphone of your mobile phone in search of sounds that “indicate problems”, according to the company – Citizen cites human screaming as an example. The distress detection feature is only available on iOS, although Citizen says it plans to extend this feature to more devices.

“We’re really on this path to developing a public safety system and using technology to complement it,” says Citizen CEO Andrew Frame.

Citizen says that somewhere around 100,000 users have tried the service in beta. Last week, Citizen provided me with a free Protect trial. In my testing week, it worked as I promised. Pressing the Get Agent button at the bottom of the home screen gave me the opportunity to contact the Protect agent via video chat or text chat. In one of my tests, I contacted Agent Protect identified as Agent Aaron, who told me that I could see the location of my device, battery level, and travel speed – zero, as I sat still. The agent also said that if I had synchronized Protect with the Apple Watch, they could have seen my heart rate. That extra layer of data would probably let them know if I was panicking or physically straining. (Citizen says he is not commenting on any health sensor-related features at this time.)

On iOS, a setting called Protect Mode opens access to the phone’s microphone to enable the above-mentioned screaming warnings. It also unlocks a gesture option that allows you to shake the phone to send a message to the agent. They both worked when I tested them, although it took a few screams for the app to send an alert. In practice, Citizen agents can then turn on emergency services and notify them of your phone’s location. In the event of an official response, Citizen will also create a public incident alert to notify nearby Citizen users.

Roadside assistance

Protect is Citizen’s first subscription-based offering, and a paid product of any kind has been long overdue. The company has since raised funds for venture capital started 2016, while only hint in his plans to eventually build a profitable business. In early 2020, Frame said he was a Citizen planned cashing that year. (“VC said they wouldn’t continue funding until you realized it,” Frame told me last year.) The pandemic may have destabilized that time frame a bit, but the company’s lack of profitability doesn’t seem to have disappeared. $ 50 million this year I am in the Serie C round.

Now, after months of beta testing, Protect is available to all 8 million Citizen users. But it is not clear whether users will accept the paid service offered by one of the most controversial technology companies.


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