Joe Parisi was a senior at Northern Illinois University in October 2010, when Antinette "Toni" Keller was murdered while walking by herself near campus.
"It kind of made an impression on me," he said. "My girlfriend at the time was really affected. ... It kind of made me think, 'What can we do to fix that problem?'"
Parisi, 26, and two former NIU roommates, Adam Havey and Dominick Blando, formed Chicago-based EduProtect to develop a security device called an EDU Remote.
The wireless mobile application works with subscribers' smartphones, Parisi said. Tap the button on the remote, and the subscriber's physical description and GPS location is sent to a dispatch center in Springfield, which contacts the local authorities. Once activated, the EduProtect remote also starts recording audio and video.
After the situation is resolved, the user can turn off the GPS tracking by entering a four-digit code. It will remain disabled until the remote is activated.
The action is faster than dialing 911, Havey said, and Blando noted that a person in immediate danger may not have the chance to make an emergency call on their phone. It also allows people to keep their phone tucked out of sight; the remote is small enough to be held in one's hand, or attaches to a key ring.
"Saving someone's life, that's the hope here," Blando said.
Because of their own college experiences, Havey said EDU Protect is initially focusing on college students. But Havey said the remote can be used by anyone, such as people who have to cross a dark parking lot when they get off of work late at night. For that reason, Parisi said the dispatch center isn't associated with a college.
"It works for anyone, anytime, anywhere," he said. "I really think we have what people are looking for."
Blando said all three founders carry an EDU Remote, and encourage their family members and friends to carry them. Service plans are available for $9.99 a month, $29.99 a quarter or $99.99 a year, and the agreements are monthly, with no long-term contracts.
The service will officially launch in September; discounts are available to people who sign up before then.
Havey said the remotes have a battery life of more than one year, and replacement batteries are provided at no cost.
The company has an Indiegogo campaign to help raise funding, and the three NIU grads recently pitched for "Shark Tank," the ABC television show where start-up companies seek investments from a panel of established business professionals. They have been asked back for a second interview.
To contribute to the Indigogo campaign, visit http://shawurl.com/1bis.
To buy a remote or for more information, visit www.edu-protect.com.