A Rotorua-born technology initiative lets Android smartphone users raise the alarm and get help if they are in trouble.

The "Please Help" app, launched at Steam restaurant in Rotorua last night, will initially be targeted at businesses, with the hope of moving into the wider community.

More than 40 people attended the launch and became the initial testers for the app.

Toi Ohomai lecturer and Edutech owner Paramdip Singh said he had the idea for the app when he saw the level of crime in Rotorua.

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"I thought we should be able to use technology to our advantage," he said.

Singh saw the effect of crime when his friend's liquor store was robbed.

"The man that was hit over the head was my student," he said.

"I saw that it was more than the shop owners, but also our students that are at risk."

When switching on the service, on icon opens that is easily accessible and remains on the screen throughout regular use - similar to a panic button.

Pressing the icon sends an emergency message to all nominated contacts and begins voice recording the surroundings.

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"The message we have pre-embedded is '"PLEASE HELP", but people can add anything they want," Singh said.

The message also includes the user's GPS location and if nominated contacts also have the app it alerts them with a specific ringtone so they know to check their phone.

Singh said it was an important safety tool for individuals, children and teens, retail businesses and delivery personnel to help keep people safe in emergency situations.

"We pray nothing should happen to anybody and that nothing goes wrong but we just never know," Singh said.

"Prevention is better than crime."

The company has also created stickers so retailers can display they are protected by their technology.

The app is free to download from the Google play store.

The Rotorua Chamber of Commerce partnered with Singh to bring the project to life.

Interim chief executive Allison Lawton said she wanted to acknowledge the hospitality and manaaki of Singh in making the app free.

"On behalf of the chamber, in fact on behalf of the city, we'd like to thank Paramdip," she said.

"This launch is the opportunity to grow and develop further."