The founders of a technology start-up hope their invention would make attacks on women a “concern of the past” in India, which was named the world’s most dangerous nation for women in a poll of experts.
Leaf Wearables, a New Delhi-based company started by five engineers in 2015, invented SAFER PRO — a tiny computer chip built into a wristband that sends alerts to emergency contacts, even in areas without cellular phone service.
Once activated, it inconspicuously transmits location details to the network of responders within 90 seconds and records audio.
“We have a dream to see that safety becomes a concern of the past, so people can write about a time when women were unsafe,” cofounder Avinash Bansal said. “We want this in history books rather than the present.”
India was considered the most dangerous nation in the world for women by experts in a survey published last month by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Crimes against women in India spiked more than 80 percent between 2007 and 2016, when there were four cases of rape reported every hour, government data showed.
“Say if there are 100 cases taking place, then we want to be able to solve 90 of them or try to go as close to the 100 as possible,” cofounder Manik Mehta said.
Mehta said he and his colleagues were inspired to try to “make a difference” after the fatal gang-rape of a young student aboard a bus in New Delhi in 2012, which triggered national outrage and led to tougher anti-rape laws.
Another of Leaf Wearables’ founders was at the stop where the victim had boarded the bus and realized how unsafe he felt in the area, which is frequented by air hostesses due to its proximity to the airport.
“He came to us and said: ‘I felt unsafe ... let’s figure out a way where we can do something ourselves, maybe we can think of a solution that can be implemented globally,’” Mehta said. “And that is how the idea started.”
The idea developed into the computer chip, which last month won the US$1 million Women’s Safety XPRIZE, a global competition for technologies to help protect women and girls from violence, in New York.
The company founders said they hope to use the prize as a springboard for the market launch of SAFER PRO — which looks like a fitness band with a red alert button — early next year, after a series of product tests.
“If we say that you are going to be safe because of it, then we have to make sure that the product is, in fact, going to save you,” Mehta said. “So the testing is very thorough.”
Leaf Wearables plans to price it at about US$35, but might reduce the cost by asking the government to either subsidize the product or lower the tax on it.
Initially, SAFER PRO is to be sold on the e-commerce Web sites Amazon and Flipkart. The company would then place it in brick-and-mortar stores in India before branching out internationally.
“We initially thought women’s safety was a native problem, but we saw a lot of interest in our product in the States,” Mehta said.
“It is not as safe as we think,” Mehta said. “Unfortunately, these kind of dangers are everywhere.”
FOX HUNT: To suppress dissent, Chinese living abroad that Xi Jinping sees as threats are told to either return to China or commit suicide, Christopher Wray said Chinese agents have been pursuing hundreds of Chinese nationals living in the US in an effort to force their return, as part of a global campaign against the country’s diaspora, known as Operation Fox Hunt, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday. In a speech about the security threat posed by China, during which he said Beijing’s counterintelligence work was the “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality,” Wray gave the example of one Fox Hunt target who was given a choice of going back to China or killing themselves. Fox Hunt was launched
INTERNET CURBS: People are rushing to erase their digital footprints after police given powers over online activity, although it might take years for the full effect to be felt At midnight on Tuesday, the Great Firewall of China, the vast apparatus that limits the country’s Internet, appeared to descend on Hong Kong. Unveiling expanded police powers as part of contentious new national security legislation, the Hong Kong government enabled police to censor online speech, and force Internet service providers to hand over user information and shut down platforms. Many residents, already anxious since the legislation took effect last week, rushed to erase their digital footprint of any signs of dissent or support for the past year of protests. Hong Kong Legislator Charles Mok (莫乃光), a pro-democracy member of the Legislative
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting
‘SUICIDE’: Media reports said Park Won-soon went missing on Thursday after a staff member filed a sexual harassment claim against him this week Seoul mayor Park Won-soon, viewed as a potential candidate for the 2022 presidential election, was found dead of an apparent suicide hours after he was reported missing, police said, adding that he was the subject of an undisclosed investigation. In a note he is thought to have left behind on his desk, Park offered his apologies. “I thank everyone who was with me in my life. I apologize to my family for only making them suffer from pain,” according to the note that was released by his office yesterday. Park, in his letter, asked to be cremated and have his remains spread