When you find yourself in an emergency situation, it's become second nature to turn to your phone and look for help. But since not every scenario can be solved with a panicked call to a friend or family member, personal safety wearables have slowly began to emerge, allowing users to become discreetly empowered when they need it most.
Looking to join the pack making waves in this space is Loop, a smart ring from the folks at Be Wear that aims to keep you safe through the push of a button while functioning as an everyday piece of jewellery.
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The project recently launched on Kickstarter, with early backers able to get their hands on one for around $75. Carlos Zamorano, founder of Be Wear, explained what led him to make Loop and why it had to be a smart ring.
"I was born in Colombia in the 1980s, so things weren't the greatest there at the time," Zamorano said. "This made me very aware of my personal safety at a very early age — it's something that's been running on my mind for a long time."
"There's studies to suggest that around 80% of the population will numb during an emergency and because of different circumstances, and different things that happened to my family not long ago, I decided to do some research and thought there's got to be an easier way for you to reach out for help when you really need it."
So what exactly does wearing the Loop entail, and what does it do?
Well, after you've completed a pretty standard setup through the device's companion app, all you need to do is press the ring's side button in order to send a text message that notifies somebody you're in an emergency situation and also embeds your location on a map. Up to five friends and family can be set as contacts, with the page displaying your whereabouts also allowing the receiver to directly call the wearer. It sounds like it'll work in a similar way to the Nimb smart ring, which appeared on Kickstarter last year.
As with most smart ring and safety wearables designs, Loop is designed to blend in with your usual getup. However, Zamorano also indicated this decision was impacted by his time working at Nokia.
"One of the things I noticed early on was that although Bluetooth headsets sold well, people did feel intimidated by wearing technology," he explained. "The same thing has been replicated over and over — look at smart glasses, as an example."
"There's still a stigma around wearing technology that's very visible, people don't want to look like a cyborg from a movie just yet. So that's why we decided to do something that didn't look like technology, and that allows us to integrate it with everyday items."
It's a concept Zamorano calls "transparent tech", whereby the user is empowered by the benefits of smarter products but isn't left having to potentially compromise their comfort zone.
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Though there's often a propensity to view smart rings and safety wearables as products which focus on women, he noted how the Loop has grown through testing.
"It was born as a tool to empower women who suffered from domestic abuse and sexual assault. But after going through testing and research over the past 18 months or so, we realised that we're not only about that area," he said. "People who have been using the product have shown us that we there's a wider reach here."
"We've had those who suffer from anxiety attacks, we've had people who suffer from PTSD or depression — they might not be involved in an actual emergency, but when they're going through an episode, they really just want someone they trust by them."
More of the same?
Safety wearables and smart rings have become more prevalent and even the Apple Watch now boasts an SOS mode. But there's a risk that the niche becomes flooded with identikit options all duking it out to gain relevance.
However, this isn't something Zamorano indicated he was concerned about, arguing that competition is healthy for the area and could prove to help Loop in the long-run.
"I do feel a bit different about competition," he said. "The more of us that are in the market trying to drive the same message and create awareness about the needs of calling for help in this kind of discreet way, I think it benefits everyone in the end. With that said, I do feel like we have some strong points — usability and design are a key differentiator."
Loop would appear to be a solid addition to the field, but the question is, should you back the project?
Zamorano confirmed that companion apps for both iOS and Android have already been approved and 500 rings have already been produced through testing, with the funding target of CA$50,000 simply to take the product into production. This should, on paper, allow for a smooth rollout and launch starting from September 2017.
And while nothing is ever a surefire thing in the realm of crowdfunding, Loop certainly seems to be sat on the more reliable end of the scale. With the emergency call process appearing a straightforward way to receive backup, the bigger question potential backers have to answer, as is the case with many rings, is whether the design is one they're prepared to slip on and don on a consistent basis. If it is, then Loop would be worth some financial love.
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