If you’ve got some sort of wearable technology wrapped around your wrist (or still in its dusty box in your closet), there’s a good chance that it’s a doodad concerned with your health, able to track everything from your footsteps to your sleep cycles, your body temperature to your blood pressure. But a fast-growing sector of the wearables market is angling toward another kind of well-being: your safety.
Unlike the metrics of health, safety is a lot more subjective, and far harder to measure — though the data we do have suggest protection is the best prevention. A new wave of wearables is attempting to change the forms that protection takes — and treat the Internet as a safety net.
And form plays a big part in the world personal safety wearables. The onyx cut glass of the Safer Smart Pendant ($30), for instance, makes it a lot prettier than the average panic button. Pressing the jewel twice activates a Bluetooth connection to your phone that sends alerts and live location information out to select “guardians.” ROAR for Good’s Athena pendant (which will ship this fall for $79) can be worn around the neck or clipped to clothing and has two modes: one that sounds an 85dB alarm and instantly sends text alerts and location information to loved ones, and a “SilentROAR” mode that nixes the alarm tone for more discreet activation.
Similarly, the Nimb ring ($99 through Indiegogo) takes the inconspicuous form of casual jewelry. The understated white ring was developed in part by Kathy Roma — who, in 2000, was stabbed multiple times by a stranger in broad daylight, just 200 feet from a police station — and packs several levels of protection into its single tiny button. One touch can send a distress signal to a range of “safety circles,” from friends, family, and people nearby, to police and emergency services.
Other options are taking an even lower-key approach — living on your key ring or your belt. The Revolar system relies on a small fob that works in tandem with an app. Activating it sends one of two levels of alert (yellow or red — i.e. an unsafe feeling vs. emergency in progress) via text to a designated list of five contacts, along with location information.
The most impressive of these tag-based systems comes from Wearsafe. Activating the Wearsafe tag not only triggers a set of alerts sent to a designated list of contacts, but sends live location information and audio from the scene and opens a “virtual situation room” between respondents in order to coordinate help (or call 911). The “Rewind” function even grabs audio recorded in the 60 seconds prior to activation to provide context. Whatever action taken on a call for distress, the tag vibrates the reassure the caller that help is on the way. Of course, this tag has it’s own tag: The service is $5/month. (Though while the tag itself retails for $30, you can waive that cost with a month-long free trial of the service.)
Of course, the great vulnerability of all this personal safety technology is that it relies entirely on technology. Without a reliable cell signal, many of these new wearable watchdogs aren’t much help. If you anticipate going off grid, consider donning a lower-tech, lower-cost alternative wearable like the Sabre — a less-than-chic wristband ($19.99) that emits an ear piercing 130 dB alarm (that can reach up to 1,000 feet away) with the pull of a ring. It might not be the best substitute for these new-fangled support systems (or old-fashioned self defense), but their tagline makes a salient point about how tech can have our backs: “Sometimes a loud noise is all you need.”