August 15, 2016 – Peoria, IL.  Local inventor and entrepreneur Josh Swank has invented and designed a unique personal protection app for the iPhone and Apple Watch that debuted on the App Store on June 1, 2016 aimed at increasing safety around the world.

Virtual Halo was conceived of by Swank during a trip to Colombia in February 2015 when he experienced a tense situation that he and his fellow traveling companions thought would end up in a kidnapping or them being killed. Having traveled over the same road they were driving on three days earlier without incident, Swank and his colleagues didn’t expect any problems. They were in a remote area of Colombia on their way back to Barranquilla to catch a flight when, in the middle of nowhere, a heavily guarded checkpoint had sprung up.

Three days earlier, this spot in the road was empty; the only thing that could be seen were the fields on either side of the poorly maintained road boarded by dense forest. On this day however, two buttressed walls made of sand bags were on either side of the road. Multiple military-type men were blocking the road, with machine guns in their hands and their fingers on the triggers, when they ordered the truck to stop.

That was when the guards pulled the two Colombians from the front of the truck. Yelling in Spanish for a while was little respite before they pulled Swank and his colleague out, dragging them to the back of the truck where they were lined up and told to outstretch their hands onto the truck.

“At this point in time, all I could think of was my wife and family. If I’m taken or killed, how will they find out? When will they realize I’m missing and where will they start to look? The variables were overwhelming and I was very concerned for them.”

With all of the technology each of us carries around daily, Swank couldn’t help but think why a simple, subtle, easy way to let people know you’re in trouble isn’t integrated into our mobile devices.

Luckily, the guards just wanted a kickback. Twenty dollars and the group of four were back on the road, but the impression of that experience didn’t leave Swank. Upon getting back to the United States, Swank set about researching options available to protect him, his family and friends in these type of situations. As it turns out, very limited options existed, which gave Swank the idea to create his own.

From February of 2015 through the end of May 2016, the process of writing a patent, defining the features, crafting the code, beta testing the app and finally submitting it to Apple for approval culminated with a successful launch. Virtual Halo went live publicly the beginning of June and has become a useful tool for families, travelers, real estate agents, college students, and just about anyone interested in personal safety.

The app has three key features:

1.)   SOS – Designed as your personal panic button, when pressed in the iPhone app, or on the Apple Watch, an emergency notification is sent by the Virtual Halo cloud to the users emergency contacts and lets them know their friend is in trouble, their nearest street address and a link to the users location on their map.

2.)   Check In – This feature allows users to simply push a button and the Virtual Halo cloud sends a text message to their emergency contacts letting them know they are OK; optionally the user can include a custom message and include their location.

3.)   Going Out – Designed for adventure sports enthusiasts, this mode is set by a user before they head out on a sport – a jog, hike, bike ride, etc. – they let the app know their intended duration and when they’ll be back. If they don’t disable the app by their preset time, the Virtual Halo service sends a text to their emergency contacts letting them know the user went out, the activity they were participating in, that they expected to be back by the specific time and that they haven’t returned; it also provides the users last known location.

Swank feels that safety is a fundamental right, which is why the app is free to download and the SOS feature is included at no cost. If a user wants the expanded features that include the Check In and Going Out capabilities, they are available as a monthly subscription for $1.99 per month, charged to their iTunes account.

For more information on Virtual Halo, visit

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