President and CEO of Erbit Technologies Limited Stuart Wollach wants to help stop sexually- based crimes from happening. So he and his business partners, including Tobin Geatz of Wilmington’s Seahawk Innovation, are developing high-tech devices to do just that.
The idea behind Safur (pronounced safer), which is wearable technology in the form of a watch or bracelet, is to prevent crimes such as sexual assaults from occurring in the first place. Through activated alerts, Safur will crowdsource help to users in need regardless of where that person is located.
“The idea is if the user can raise the alert before a crime is committed, before things go too far down that line, that’s a huge benefit because no crime has been committed,” Wollach explained. “[It] can hopefully diffuse the situation [and] sort of breaks the chain from that first feeling of uneasiness to an actual crime taking place.”
Through an app, users can enter details, including their location and a list of contacts in their network to notify with alerts, when the Safur is activated. While setup is done in advance – before leaving one’s home, etc. – Safur’s intelligence will also provide functionality, Wollach added.
For example, if a user checks into a hotel in a new city, Safur would send a notification to the user, asking to add the hotel’s security to the user’s network. The worn device – that will resemble a ubiquitous fitness tracker – contains a chip that detects a user’s location.
“It’s going to have some [artificial intelligence] built into it that will know, for example, where you are at the time, what your last location was and who in your network is there,” Wollach said, during a recent trip to Wilmington from his London home. “For example, if you’re in your college dorm but half your friends are out at the bar, it’s going to know not to notify them. It’s going to have quite a bit of intelligence built into it in terms of who is in the area, who can get there quickly.”
What’s more, Safur’s periodic location reads could aid law enforcement. Wollach likened it to leaving a trail of breadcrumbs.
“By activating the watch [to send an alert], it will already have a read of where exactly you are, and that information gets passed along not only to your network but also to law enforcement,” Wollach said. “Because in our discussion with law enforcement, [one thing] that they want and absolutely need to have is a reasonably accurate location of where you are and who you are, so that when they dispatch police they can relay this information to the officer.”
While technology-based self-protection isn’t new, Wollach saw several shortcomings in available smart jewelry, apps and the like. For one, many utilize Bluetooth connectivity, which isn’t always reliable.
Then there’s ease of use – actions such as unlocking a device and opening an app or entering a series of numbers can be difficult when a potential victim is in a frightened, adrenalized state. Additionally, devices that rely on cell phone pairing are useless if one’s phone is taken away or the phone’s battery dies.
“The third layer is the whole activation mechanism because it’s that double-edged sword: It’s got to be easy enough that you can do it when you’re scared for your life, but at the same time you don’t want it going off all the time. You don’t want any false activation,” Wollach said. “So far we haven’t seen anything that kind of fits all of those three.”
Safur is in its final hardware design stages, with a Wilmington-based design team creating the watch case, bracelet and activation mechanism. A prototype for testing is expected to be available by mid-year.