An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCDV). The emotional as well as physical consequences of domestic violence are great, and often result in a chronic state of depression and post-traumatic stress. But wearable technology can offer help — as well as increased peace of mind. A rapidly growing generation of GPS-enabled devices is being manufactured and sold as accessories, providing wearers with stealth emergency alert systems.
For women living in fear of abuse, the hope is that this technology will empower them and help them to defend themselves more effectively.
1. The Guardian Angel
Described by its creators as an “accessory with a purpose,” the Guardian Angel can be worn as either a pendant or a bracelet, and works via Bluetooth with an app on your smartphone. When stuck in an unsafe situation, you push a small button and your cell phone will ring immediately, creating a distraction. If pushed for longer than three seconds, the device will go a step further and send an emergency alert, along with your location, to a contact you’ve pre-programmed.
2. First Sign Hairclip
According to the NCDV, only 25% of all physical assaults against women by their partners are reported to the police. Mace Security International (yes, that Mace, of pepper-spray fame) has partnered with First Sign to create a wearable security system that works to fight violent crime both before and after the fact. The device, which is embedded within a stylish hairclip, contains a gyroscope and an accelerometer — both of which detect physical assault. When activated by a motion such as a slap, punch or kick, the First Sign Hairclip automatically signals your phone to call for help — and immediately begins collecting evidence that can be used for prosecution by sending real-time audio and video to the cloud.
3. CUFF Smart Jewelry
In addition to making your life easier by notifying you of an important call, buzzing you when you leave your phone behind and tracking your fitness goals, CUFF Smart Jewelryalso helps keep you safe. The line of pendants and bracelets connect to your phone via Bluetooth and allow you to contact friends and family with the push of a button. Thanks to its GPS-enabled capabilities, you can also configure the jewelry to send out your location, as well as real-time audio of what’s happening atyour location.
4. Safety LINK
SafetyLINK, which can be used as a key fob, clip-on pin or pendant, relies on the “power of community” to help you in an emergency. The smart device notifies nearby people in the SafetyLINK community, as well as 911 and any of your contacts who may be nearby, when you are in trouble. It’s currently available for pre-order and is expected to ship in 2015.
5. Amulyte Pendant
Also available for pre-order is the Amulyte Pendant. While not as attractive as many of the other devices, it can signal for help and keep you connected with friends and family whenever it is worn. A speaker and microphone is built into the device, so you can talk to loved ones right through the pendant.
6. Charm Alarm
There’s also the anti-theft-focused Charm Alarm, which is a connected necklace that keeps tabs on your purse and wallet. It warns you if you walk too far away from your belongings or if someone tries to grab your bag and walk away. It also makes noise to attract attention to the theft.
More than a handful of similar wearable devices have been conceived in an effort to reduce assaults against women, many via crowdfunding campaigns. However some wearable experts think that limiting these devices to just women is a mistake.
“Emergency wearables can be highly beneficial to a wide range of people, not just women,” says Sabine Seymour, a conceptual researcher and entrepreneur, and the CEO of Moondial. “The elderly, for instance, or people with a disability. Someone who works in a hazardous environment, where there is equipment falling left and right.”
Seymour also points out that, in order to gauge the true potential for these device’s success, it’s important to carefully consider the realities of the emergency situations they are designed to thwart. “Context is very important,” she says. “Where will women actually wear these? Will they wear them at all?”
Further, will victims of domestic violence actually buy a device like The Guardian Angel of the First Sign Hairclip, despite the fact that that so many have become socially isolated and have fewer financial resources as a result of their situation?
The creators of these emergency wearables hope the answer to that question is yes.
This piece is part of Verizon Wireless' #PowerfulTech series on Emergency Preparedness. Share your thought, tips and comments on Twitter using the hashtag #PowerfulTech.
Also, check out these stories from earlier in the series: