Review: Walk Safely to School Day app

walksafelyappThis app aims to encourage kids to walk to school on the upcoming Walk Safely to School Day.

The app appears fairly straightforward. You start it up and press the big green arrow button and the app will track your walk via GPS and end up telling you how far you’ve walked. It keeps a record of your walks although I struggle to see enormous utility in this. If you’re only walking on the one day, the official Day, an on-going record isn’t much use. Even if you walk every day, you are presumably walking the same route. Perhaps seeing if it takes you different times might be a challenge but then having some metric or table to indicate that would be good. I’m guessing that isn’t there partly because having kids rush to school doesn’t seem all that clever given road-crossing and so on; and, realistically because this is aimed a primary school kids, in most cases the app will be being carried by an accompanying parent who may well not want to rush like a mad thing. There’s also a point system

The interface is simple and nicely designed. The tracking seems to work well. There is a bog limitation in that the app seems to need to be open and at the front of your screen on an iPhone to work. So if you check your mail,. take a call or do anything else the app stops tracking you until you bring it back to being centre of attention. Especially given that this app is focused on results on a single day, i can see that being frustrating.

More concerning than these quibbles is the aggregation facility. You can register your details and your information will be captured and sent to your school via somewhere. That allows the school to see who’s walking and how far they’ve walked. It’s in this area that things get a little hazy. It’s not clear who you are sending the information to – the information on how old you are, where you live and the route you take walking to school. It’s not clear how long the information might be held and what if anything might be done with it. It’s not clear how securely it is being held. It’s not clear if you’re dealing with the developer, under whose name you downloaded the app, or the Pedestrian Council who organise Walk to School Day. The app does not appear to include a privacy policy.

Look, if this app encourages people to walk then it’s a good thing. It looks good and works fine, especially for something designed to be used in limited circumstances. A little more thought abound the privacy issues wouldn’t have gone amiss though.

If you are simply looking for way of seeing how far you have walked just search iTunes for “GPS tracker” to get a range of free and paid-for apps that will do the job. For more information on Walk Safely to School Day, an initiative I heartily endorse, see: www.walk.com.au.

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