Devices like smartphones should help people feel safer, but if you are really in danger, the last thing to do is to take out your phone, go see your recent contacts and type in a message to ask for help. The Women's Safety XPRIZE has just awarded its $ 1 million prize to one of dozens of companies that are trying to manufacture a simple and affordable security device.
The formal challenge was to create a device costing less than $ 40 that could autonomously and discreetly activate an emergency alert while transmitting information to a network of community answering machines. all in 90 seconds.
Anu and Naveen Jain, the entrepreneurs who funded the competition, pointed to the international and very present danger of sexual aggression in particular.
"Women's safety is not just a third world problem, we face it every day in our own country and on our university campuses," Naveen Jain said in the press release announcing winner. "This is not a problem of red state or a blue state problem but a national problem."
"Security is a basic human right and should not be considered a luxury for women, it is the basis of the achievement of gender equality," added Anu Jain
Among the dozens of teams that participated, five finalists were selected in April: Artemis, Wearables Leaf, Nimb & SafeTrek, Saffron and Soterra. All had some variation on a device that was detected or activated manually during an attack or a stressful situation, alerting friends of its location.
The winner was Leaf, who had the advantage of having already shipped a product along these lines, the Safer pendant. Like any other Bluetooth accessory, it stays in touch with your wireless smartphone and when you press the button twice, your emergency contacts are alerted to your location and need help. It also records audio recordings, possibly providing evidence later or deterring stalkers who might be concerned about being identified.
This is not an original idea – we have had several versions for quite some time and we even covered one of the other finalists last year. But they have not been evaluated quantitatively or have received a platform like this.
"These devices have been tested in many conditions by the judges to ensure that they will work in real-life cases where women face dangers today." They have been tested in areas without connectivity, in transit, in basements of buildings, among other environments, "says Anu Jain at TechCrunch." Have the ability to record audio after the event. Sending the alert was one of the key differentiators for Leaf Wearables. Their chip design and software were also easy to integrate into other accessories. "
Let's hope that the million dollars and the visibility gained by winning the prize will help Leaf offer its product to people who need it. The second do not seem to have to abandon the problem either. And it seems that the devices will only improve and cost less – and that it will not change the world all by itself.
"Prices will fall as sensor prices go down, and in many countries it will take community support to build," continued Jain. "These technologies can be a deterrent, but in the long run the culture of violence must change again."