Citizen’s new service helps paying users call the police

Citizen, application A new subscription service has been launched to track local crimes and allow you to film incidents when they occur. It’s called Protect, and it enables users who pay $20 a month to contact Citizen’s virtual security agency team for help when they feel threatened.

Tuesday’s update marked a major change in Citizen’s business. So far, Citizen’s business has been to send users free smartphone alerts about nearby crimes and incidents. With this paid service​​, the company has not only taken a step towards actively monitoring the security of users who pay monthly fees, but it has also expanded a service that privacy advocates have repeatedly condemned as excessive.

Protection is like the life alert button of a mobile phone. If you are in danger, just press the red “Get Agent” button in the Citizen app, and you will have a video or text chat with the protection agent. If you need help on the spot, the agent can call the police or other emergency services and guide them to your location. If your emergency contacts also have the Citizen app installed, the agent can contact these people if you are incapacitated or unable to contact yourself because you are busy with emergency situations.

Since the beginning of 2021, this feature has only been available to some Beta testers, and it was launched in an app update today, so any Citizen user can register.

The new version of the app can even listen to your screams. According to the company, a feature available to subscribers called “Distress Detection” uses an algorithm to monitor whether there is a “problem” sound in your phone’s microphone—Citizen uses human screams as an example . The distress detection feature is currently only available on iOS, but Citizen said it plans to extend the feature to more devices in the future.

Citizen CEO Andrew Frame said: “We are really just developing a public safety system and using technology to enhance its journey.”

Citizen said that approximately 100,000 users have tried the service in the beta. Last week, Citizen offered me a free trial of the Protect service. During my testing week, it worked as promised. By pressing the “Get Agent” button at the bottom of the main screen, I can choose to contact the Protect agent via video chat or text chat. In one of my tests, I established a connection with a Protect agent named Agent Aaron, and he told me that they could see the location of my device, battery level and driving speed-zero, because I was sitting still. The agent also stated that if I sync Protect with Apple Watch, they will be able to see my heart rate. Those extra layers of data will probably let them know whether I am panicking or exercising myself. (Citizen stated that it will not comment on any health sensor-related functions at this time.)

On iOS, a setting called Protected Mode turns on access to the phone’s microphone to allow the above-mentioned screaming alarm. It also unlocks a gesture option that allows you to shake your phone to send text messages to customer service. When I tested them, they all worked, although it took a few screams for the app to send an alert. In practice, the Citizen agent can then contact emergency responders and inform them of the location of your phone. If the official responds, Citizen will also create a public alert for the incident to notify nearby Citizen users.

Help on the road

Protect is Citizen’s first subscription-based product, and any type of paid product is long overdue.Since its establishment, the company has been raising venture capital funds it has started In 2016, although only hint In its final plan to establish a profitable business. In early 2020, Frame stated that Citizen Plan monetization that year. (“The venture capital firm said that until you figure it out, they will not continue to fund this,” Frame told me last year.) The pandemic may have disrupted this timeline a bit, but the company’s lack of profitability does not seem to be affected investor.Citizen proposed 50 million USD This year alone, it is in the C round of financing.

Now, after months of beta testing, all 8 million Citizen users can use Protect. But it is not clear whether customers will accept paid services from one of the most controversial technology companies around.

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