Peace of mind. That’s what Helen Fretwell ‘81 had in mind when she created SafeNow, a new smartphone app that automatically “checks in” on users at designated times so they and their loved ones are assured they’re safe.
Introduced recently as a way to track the health, safety and welfare of everyone from the elderly, parents and college students to neighbors and even pets, SafeNow is gaining traction with sponsors such as the headquarters of Brookdale Senior Living Inc. in Tennessee, which is promoting it to its employees and residents. The app will be demonstrated at JU this fall during the Dolphin Marketplace resource fair for students.
Fretwell, of Fort Lauderdale, earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from JU and went on to receive her MBA, and then led a successful 28-year career in business development and sales at IBM. She formed TweetTime LLC and launched SafeNow after seeing a need to eliminate human error for people keeping track of their loved ones.
“People often try to set up call routines for their loved ones,” she said. “But we’re all human, and those calls can sometimes be forgotten. Sadly, this can jeopardize the safety of those in need.”
Wave Magazine Online asked Fretwell about SafeNow, along with her college experience at JU.
What made you think of SafeNow?
Basically, many people have had times when they are alone and want or need assistance for their safety. Have you ever set up call routines with family and friends, and then find those plans being forgotten? I have. So I created SafeNow to do it for me.
How does it work?
For $8.50 a month, SafeNow users can choose times when they want to be checked on. The app pings them with a notification at those selected times. By responding to the notification with a click, the user verifies that he or she is safe, and the timer resets for the next designated time interval. If unable to respond, the user’s primary contact is alerted immediately by text and email with information on pet care, children, doctors, hospitals, emergency contacts and a GPS location of the user. The primary contact can then take action as needed. If the primary contact doesn’t respond right away, the next listed contact is alerted with all the user information and GPS location as well.
Who would benefit from this app? Mainly people who are incapacitated and may need to alert someone of a problem?
It’s not just for those with physical illnesses or needs. From college students walking home late at night to individuals, like Realtors, often meeting strangers in new places, the app can help signal they are safe. It can even keep pets safe, by including instructions on their care if someone has not responded. I live alone and have a sweet dog that depends on me. A few years ago, I found myself very ill. I was concerned that if something happened, my sweet pup would suffer.
How did your journey from psychology to business occur?
During my years at JU, I took a variety of classes that gave me a well-rounded education. In addition to my major and minor courses, I took elective courses in music and business. I found that I excelled in marketing and economics. I decided to further my education and get an MBA with a focus on marketing and finance. I was hired by IBM after two semesters of my MBA study because of my diverse education experience at JU and elsewhere, and as a result of my scholastic achievements.
How did your career point you in the direction of SafeNow?
After completing my MBA in 1985, I had a long career with IBM and held many sales and marketing positions. I retired in 2013, and then acquired my real estate license. The app idea came to me as a terrific safety tool for individuals living alone or working in environments where safety may be a concern, such as with Realtors. I discussed the app idea with friends and business colleagues, and they encouraged me to develop it.
What led you to JU for your education?
I am a Jacksonville native. My late father attended JU and I have a deceased great aunt, Estella Kennedy, who was on staff in the Music Department. Going to JU was a great option for me for my undergraduate studies. It allowed me to have a college student experience, participate in college activities, develop lasting friendships from around the world — all while getting an excellent education in my hometown. Jacksonville University has a great reputation for solid education and university culture.