Few things in the world are as scary as realizing the need to urgently call for help and not having access to a phone.
In times when everyone seems to be constantly texting, it’s easy to forget that smartphones can do far more than just providing easy access to emails and social networks — a call to 911 can save a life, perhaps the device owner’s life. But smartphone are still a separate entity from the human body (for now), and can be left behind or taken away.
What if people would carry with them at all times a secret system that connects them instantly to 911 or to an emergency contact?
Rajia Abdelaziz, a recent graduate in computer science and electrical engineering from University of Massachusetts, Lowell, launched a company called invisaWear that says it can give people, especially women, “peace of mind” about their own security. Abdelaziz, who started the company as a class project during her senior year, said her startup has raised half a million dollars through private investors. Additionally, invisaWear raised almost $35,000 in an ongoing Indiegogo campaign.
The startup sells online a variety of jewels – necklaces, bracelets and keychains – that work as disguised alarm systems. When users who wear invisaWear jewelry need help, they press on their charm twice. Instantly, the technology inside the piece of jewelry sends an input to the owner’s smartphone via Bluetooth.
Thanks to an app downloaded to the smartphone, users can set in advance if they want to call 911 or to send location information to a trusted contact. To work, users have to be in the Bluetooth range of their phones, and both the batteries of their smartphones and their invisaWear charm have to be charged. If users press on their jewel twice by mistake, they can cancel the call for help by using the phone app.
Abdelaziz said that she and her co-founders launched the company a year and half ago almost by accident. At that time, Abdelaziz was the president of the Society of Women Engineers chapter at UMass Lowell and she noticed that attendance to meetings was continuously decreasing. After speaking with members, she realized that the reason many women weren’t attending anymore was because they felt uncomfortable walking outside at night. She suggested that members carry pepper spray with them for personal protection.
To her surprise, the ideas wasn’t as welcome to other chapter members as she expected Their objection was, what if somebody takes away my pepper spray and use it against me?
Abdelaziz had to learn the foundation of her peers’ objection to pepper spray the hard way. A month later, during the summer of 2015, she was at the Apple Store when a complete stranger sitting next to her picked up her pepper spray can – hanging from her keychain – and almost pressed it.
“He said that he wanted to test if it actually worked,” Abdelaziz said. “The first thing that crossed my mind was, ‘Oh my goodness, this man has a weapon and I’m the one who gave it to him.'”
While this episode concluded without emergency, Abdelaziz said she realized that the girls at her school chapter were right about the pepper spray, and that there would have to be a better way to keep women safe. Enter invisaWear.
Based in Lowell with a team of five, invisaWear is currently selling its jewelry on Indiegogo for a starting price of $79. Abdelaziz said they should be able to ship their orders by June.