Hollaback: Curb Catcalls With iPhone App

New iPhone app lets victims report street harassment.

Nov. 10, 2010— -- Next time you're walking down the street and someone throws a lewd comment your way, you don't have to just take it, you can "hollaback."

A new mobile application for iPhones and Android phones takes on curbside catcallers and lets victims of street harassment report verbal abuse, flashing, groping and other kinds of assaults on the go.

"We have addressed workplace harassment, right? And workplace harassment isn't any different from street harassment. It's still harassment and it certainly doesn't hurt any less," said Emily May, 29, the executive director of the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Hollaback, which launched the application this week. "(We) addressed workplace harassment 20 years ago and the reason was that we could sue the pants off these companies. But when it comes to street harassment, we can't sue the pants off the sidewalks."

So to tackle street harassment, she said, activists need to bring the latest technology to bear.

The new application, which costs 99 cents in Apple's App Store and $1.00 in the Android Marketplace, lets women (and men) immediately report street harassment incidents. It then maps the geo-tagged reports in real-time.

It also sends a follow-up e-mail to the user asking for more information about the event so that a more detailed account can be added to the database.

"We're transforming an experience that's totally isolating into something that's sharable," May said. "We can share our stories and bring awareness to this."

Momentum behind the movement to end street harassment seems to be growing. About two weeks ago, a New York City Council committee heard testimony on the issue and May said she has support from around the world.

The iPhone application not only empowers women and victims of harassment, it also helps document the incidents, which could ultimately push lawmakers to action, she said.

"When you Hollaback, when I Hollaback. I do it for two reasons: One is for me, it's about that empowered response, it's about not having to be silenced, and the other reason is for the world," she said.

May said she has a social policy degree from the London School of Economics and the policy wonk in her can't wait to gather all the data, cut it along district lines and then share it with legislatures.

"If we don't have data, if we can't show that this exists, we're not going to be able to get the legislators' ears in any way, shape or form," she said. "It's going to be the same that it always was; that street harassment is just this weird word that nobody's ever heard of. But I think that Hollaback and all the people who use the app are changing that."

Hollaback is just one of thousands of applications for iPhones, Android phones and other smartphones.

Take a look at a few others below:

Bed Bug Alert Tracks Outbreaks

If a fear of bed bugs is keeping you housebound, an iPhone app developer has the solution for you.

Launched in October, Bed Bug Alert lets users search for and report bed bug outbreaks in their area.

On your way to a movie but worried that you might end up itchy? About to book a hotel room but afraid you'll come home with a suitcase full of the persistent pests?

For $1.99, you can download the application and search any location in the country to see if anyone has reported an infestation or search the directory to find outbreaks near any place you plan to go.

Search New York City, for example, and you'll start scratching at just the sight of all the reported outbreaks that appear on the map.

Apple iPhone Apps

Adam Kotkin, CEO of Apps Genius Corporation, the company behind the app, said he lives in New York and launched the application after hearing of all the bed bug-infested movie theatres, hotels and point of interest around the city.

In the past few months, the prestigious Waldorf Astoria Hotel, the iconic Bloomingdales and multiple movie theaters and retail stores have been accused of bed bug blitzes.

"We're in a pandemic right now. I think we're beyond epidemic at this point," he quipped. "And I was freaked out, for lack of a better word, going to movies, going to public places where you sit in other people's seats, taking public transportation."

When he realized that there wasn't one central database of bed bug outbreaks mentioned in news stories, reported to the health department or listed elsewhere, he decided to create one.

He said his staff culls infestation reports from a variety of sources around the country and combines them with user-submitted reports to provide users with a geo-tagged database of bed bug outbreaks. s

Users can look at the top 10 cities with bed bug problems or search for reports in any part of the country. Kotkin said his staff tries to verify the legitimacy of user-based reports and removes reports if they are inaccurate.

Virgin Atlantic App Helps Fight Fear of Flying

To help travelers overcome a fear of flying, Virgin Atlantic launched an iPhone application based on the airline's "Flying Without Fear" course, which the company says has a 98 percent success rate.

Launched in partnership with developer Mental Workout, the application is available for the iPhone and iPod Touch, includes relaxation and fear therapy exercises, frequently asked questions and a video that explains a flight from start to finish.

It even features a "fear attack button" for emergencies, with breathing exercises and quick tips.

"Our first iPhone app will bring the benefits of our successful Flying Without Fear course to millions of people around the world who are now using mobile technology to make their lives better," Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Atlantic's president, said in a statement. "The app will put many travelers at ease and enable them to prepare for their first Virgin Atlantic flight."

At $4.99, the it's on the pricier side for iPhone applications. But as proof that the app is based on a sound program, Virgin Atlantic said its Flying Without Fear course recently helped Whoopi Goldberg overcome her fear of flying.

"The program works, I was a skeptic. I hadn't flown in 13 years but afterdoing their program, I understood that while my fear was real, there were many things I didn't know or had misinformation about, which they were able to clear up," the actress said in a statement. "So what happened? I now fly. It's that simple."

Application Remotely Unlocks, Starts Cars

Viper SmartStart promises to remotely unlock, start and warm your car from almost anywhere in the world.

Launched by Directed Electronics, a vehicle security and remote start systems designer, the app can be downloaded for free from Apple's App store.

Although remote starting systems for cars usually have a limited line-of-sight range, Viper says its system has "virtually unlimited range" since your iPhone, not the original remote, communicates over cell networks with your car.

"We think customers will find all sorts of unique and personal value in Viper SmartStart," Mike Simmons, EVP of Directed Electronics' parent company, DEI Holdings, said in a statement. "Whether helping out her husband, who's locked his keys in the car, or securely locking her keys and purse in the car while she takes a jog with some music on her iPhone, we expect to hear about some uses we never anticipated."

Once the Viper SmartStart hardware is professionally installed in the car, the iPhone can also be used to defrost windows, cool down the vehicle in warmer weather, unlock the trunk or activate a panic alarm.

But though the app is free, the hardware that will actually make it work with your car is quite pricey.

The system will only work if paired with one of two Viper SmartStart systems that go for $499 (for those who don't already have a remote start system) and $299 (for those who do have remote start). The first year of service is free but, subsequently, service is $29.99 a year.

App Turns iPhone Into 'Sleaze Detector'

Sleaze ball or sweetheart? An iPhone app claims it can help singles tell the difference.

Launched by information commerce firm Intelius, Date Check lets users perform instant background checks on potential dates from their mobile phones.

Once it's downloaded on an iPhone, the application only needs a name or cell phone number to search publicly available records.

If you activate the app's Sleaze Detector, it scans criminal records to determine if anyone with that name has been charged with drug possession, assault and battery, sex crimes, DUI and other offenses.

If you click Net Worth, it looks for information about home ownership and property value.

It can also check social networking sites, such as LinkedIn to provide employment and education information.

"Date Check is like having a private investigator in your purse," John Arnold, co-founder of Intelius and executive vice president of business development, said in a statement. "Letting a stranger into your life is a huge risk, and in the age of Internet anonymity, a simple online search isn't enough to tell you everything you need to know. "

This application, the company said, "gives singles a safer way to mingle."

But though the app itself is free, the services can cost up to $40, depending on the kind of searches that are selected.

Date Check is available for download in Apple's App store and will be available soon in Android and BlackBerry versions.

RunPee Helps Moviegoers With Bathroom Breaks

Soda. Coffee. Water. Next time to you go to the movies, chug 'em all down.

As long as you have this iPhone app by your side, you'll know when you can escape to the bathroom without missing the best parts.

RunPee (yes, really) promises to be the small-bladdered moviegoer's best friend.

The application features all the movies currently playing in theaters and tells users approximately how far into the movie each "pee time" begins, the cue line to listen for and even what they've missed. (When you're on your way back to your seat, you can hit a button to unscramble text that provides a short synopsis.)

"The idea came from watching King Kong the re-make in 2005," said Dan Florio, RunPee's creator, referring to Peter Jackson's marathon three-hour blockbuster. Throughout much of the movie, he said, he was desperate to relieve himself.

"I kept thinking, I wish they would just kill this ape so that I could get to the men's room," he said.

Like a good fan, he waited until the end, but not without noting a good three-minute sequence he could have done without.

"I just could have gone to the men's room during the scene and I could have enjoyed the end of the movie and the movie would have been better," the Orlando, Fla. developer said.

When he walked out of the theater and saw the lines of people waiting to get into the theater, he wanted to share his secret. But being a bit bashful, he kept it to himself.

The idea stayed in remission until August 2008, when he launched RunPee.com.

He said he's watched about 80 percent of the movies to scout out the best "pee times," but added his family has helped. And anyone who's interested can submit ideas to the site.

In 2009, he partnered with brothers John and Sam Shahidi, and Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Jordan Palmer, to work on the iPhone app. Download figures aren't available yet, but Florio said traffic to the site has jumped from about 30 unique visitors a day last year to about 3,500 visitors a day.