While there have been many attempts to build a safety wearable, none of them have really taken off. There's a reason for that: it's incredibly difficult to do. It has to be wearable, and it has to be reliable.
InvisaWear, available on IndieGoGo for $79, is hoping to buck the trend with not only its smart jewellery, but also a strategy that's similar to the partnership between Google and Fossil.
Just like how Google provides Android Wear to Fossil to make good-looking smartwatches, InvisaWear wants to give jewellery makers tech that can make their jewellery smart ‚Äď and maybe one day a deterrent, should the technology ever become ubiquitous.
And it all works very simply. It's is a small, coin-like device that can be attached to your person in four ways: as a bracelet, choker, necklace or keychain. All you do is click the device twice and it'll send out an alert in one of two modes. You can send out an alert to friends or family, or you can send an alert to friends and family in addition to an alert sent to 9-1-1 and emergency services. InvisaWear has partnered up with RapidSOS, a company that provides technology to 9-1-1 dispatchers, to help improve and streamline the 9-1-1 dispatch process.
According to the FCC, nearly 10,000 people die a year because of the inefficiency of the 9-1-1 dispatch system. The system, which was built in the 1960s, still requires callers to provide details of where they are.
"If you or I right now were to call 911 using a cell phone it wouldn't automatically get our location," Rajia Abdelaziz, CEO of InvisaWear, tells Wareable. "What would happen is first we'd be routed to a regional dispatch centre, where you have to have a two-to-four minute conversation with them explaining where we are and what the emergency is. Then they'd put us on pause and route us to the correct dispatch centre, where we then explain to them again, wasting another two-to-four minutes [repeating] everything that we just said."
InvisaWear is a company born out of need. Abdelaziz was president of the society of women engineers at her university. The society's meetings were at night, and she and her fellow society members would feel uncomfortable when traveling to and from meetings. Some of the members even stopped attending because they were too afraid to walk outside.
Abdelaziz bought pepper spray to better protect herself, but her fellow society members warned her it wasn't a good idea because of how easily pepper spray could be taken away from her. Eventually she came to realise that they were right, and started looking into panic buttons. Instead, she found a whole bunch of wearables she didn't want to wear.
"I thought to myself, wow I can't even get my grandma to wear these big ugly panic buttons, what makes these companies think young women like myself would want to wear one?" Abdelaziz says.
So Abdelaziz, who had been working at Amazon Robotics, called up her friend and decided to start a school project to make a wearable panic button. The project soon went viral across campus.
"All the women and girls kept coming up to us, telling us they want a piece of our jewellery," she says. "Parents were telling us they'd write us a blank cheque to start us as a company so they could buy the product to protect their kids."
That funding has allowed InvisaWear to put together the underlying technology in its smart jewellery. However, InvisaWear doesn't necessarily want to be a smart jewellery company. It wants to provide the technology for jewellery makers to offer these wearable panic buttons, making them commonplace and, therefore, a deterrent.
The idea is that would-be attackers would see jewellery on someone, realise that two presses could call the cops and be less likely to harm someone. It's an ambitious goal, but Abdelaziz points to the fact that one in four women on college campuses encounters sexual assault and how incredible that is in 2018.
"It's time somebody takes a stand and does something about it."
It's a good question, especially since it's hard not to want to root for InvisaWear. The company and its product are fully funded, and are simply undergoing final testing of the device.
Abdelaziz and others have been testing the device, and we here at Wareable will be getting some in to try. If you're worried about the crowdfunding cliche of a company who can't produce the product they're promising, it seems unlikely that'll be the case here.
At $79, the InvisaWear isn't going to break the bank either. The big question for the company is how well it's going to be able to scale. Abdelaziz says the company is looking at offering additional jewellery pieces, like bracelets or chokers, for around $10 to $15 so that customers have versatility on their side. If a necklace doesn't go with a certain outfit, or a bracelet is a better option than a choker, InvisaWear wants users to have that flexibility.
Additionally, working with jewellery makers to imbue their pieces with technology is a fascinating idea. It's the Google and Fossil partnership for safety wearables. However, that kind of scale is no easy task.