MyWay – student safety

MyWay is a map-style app that helps women students feel safer walking on their own, particularly at night.

It has been co-designed with women students from the University of Reading and trialled by students inbetween Covid lockdowns in October 2020.

We have taken the feedback from the trial and added extra features for the live version in September 2021.

How MyWay helps you

Feel safer at night, because you can look ahead and see which streets are well-lit, how many people are on the streets, and whether anybody has reported any recent incidents – such as a fight or a dodgy man approaching women.

Keep your mum from worrying – the app can automatically send an SMS to anyone you choose to say you got home safely after a night out.

Look after each other – your girl friends and housemates can share their location on the map, and you can share yours with them. You can easily turn location sharing off if you want some privacy.

Lost your way? If you are new to the area or it has been one of those nights then use the Take Me Home button to show you walking or bus directions back to your home, from wherever you are.

Remember, if you spot a creepy guy or are upset by a group of gobby lads, or a fight breaks out then you can report it on the app so that other women can see it and decide whether to avoid the area.

See MyWay in action in this 2-minute video:

MyWay – the back-story

MyWay is the brainchild of our trainee IoT consultant, Traecy Elezi. Back in 2019 she surveyed 50 women students at the University of Reading and uncovered a problem she wanted to help tackle.

Three quick facts:

  1. In 2019 there were over 2,500 violent or sexual crimes reported to Police in Reading.
  2. It is estimated that only 8% of these crimes ever get reported to the Police, so the real number is likely to be much higher.
  3. Reading is one of the safer university towns/cities in the UK.

A Facebook group was set up at the end of 2018, for women students in Reading to arrange to walk home in pairs or groups rather than alone. It has 3,000 members which indicates that women students work to keep themselves safe. Traecy’s survey explored the steps women take to ensure their safety in more depth, and it was these findings that informed our project.

We worked with a small group of women students to co-design an app that would give the user an at-a-glance view of their journey home – with relevant and up to date safety info such as: well-lit v dimly lit roads, the number of other people about, active troublespots in town, whether a street has lively happy noise, or “angry” noise to avoid.

The initial idea for the app – but have we got it right?

We designed sensors that we installed on every street in the town centre and out towards the university area, and these feed the app with live updates to make sure the information presented to the user is recent and meaningful.

The trial was delayed due to COVID-19 until September 2020, and even then it was disrupted with a second lockdown. However the feedback from students was really positive and the Students’ Union wanted to introduce MyWay to all the Freshers (first year students) in September 2021.

In between the trial and the go-live date we modified the app based on user feedback from the trial and added a new safety feature that had been suggested by the students. The Students’ Union also funded an expansion of the sensor network to fully cover the university campus.

MyWay has been very well received by this year’s intake of students, and 3 months in the number of users continues to grow.