by Michael Shapiro | April 23, 2012

If you travel a lot for a living, chances are you tend to be pretty savvy about personal safety. But inevitably there are times when you're in unfamiliar surroundings at night and the group has gone. Even just a short walk to your hotel or car can be a creepy one. There's an app for that.

StreetSafe is a personal security service that's accessed through a smartphone app, compatible with iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and Windows phones. It has been heavily marketed toward women -- 70 percent of StreetSafe's customers are female -- but it's really a particularly useful bit of security for anyone who often travels alone and may have to work at night, a description that fits many a planner.

The app is pretty straightforward. Start it up as you embark on that creepy nighttime walk, and you're presented with two sliders: a green "Slide for call back" button and a red "Slide for silent alarm" button. Slide the green button for the "walk with me" service, and a trained "safety advisor" will call your phone, within seconds, from the Chicago-based headquarters. The majority of safety advisors are actually off-duty police officers, according to StreetSafe CEO Tom Rissman. The app utilizes your smartphone's GPS data, so the safety advisor knows exactly where you are and can follow your path on satellite maps. The advisor remains on the phone with you until you reach your destination, talking you through whatever potential danger you may face, and advising you in the safest course of action. Should the danger become real and immediate, the safety advisor contacts local 911 services. Because every StreetSafe customer has an online profile, the advisor can provide law enforcement with your photo and any relevant info, as well as details about your exact location and situation. (Location data provided through GPS is actually far more accurate than the triangulation methods used if you were to just call 911 from a cell phone.) Meanwhile, you can use that time to try and get yourself to safety.

If the danger presents itself in more rapid fashion, you can skip the "walk with me" feature and just slide the red silent alarm. That notifies 911 immediately. Leave the app running, and law enforcement can track you as well as get your ID info like age, physical description and any medical conditions you may have listed in your profile.

StreetSafe launched last August, and its customer base has grown rapidly in the past few months, says Rissman. Plans are available by the month ($19.99), quarter ($44.99) or year ($149.99), with promotional discounts offered on the company's website. Enterprise pricing is available for companies that want to make it available to all employees. The service works across the U.S. and Canada.

Fortunately, says Rissman, the app has served its purpose without having to face any actual emergencies as of yet -- as of this writing, every Walk with Me call has resulted in the caller safely reaching his or her destination. And the only silent alarms activated to this point have been accidentally set. In any case, for the practical aid and sense of security promised, this app strikes me as a damn smart use of smartphones.