The Latest in Wearable Tech: Personal Safety Accessories That Will Record an Attacker

Alyssa Bereznak
National Correspondent, Technology
February 21, 2014

Computerized watches and bands are coming to a wrist near you, but soon wearable technology may do more than inform us. It may also help keep us safe. Mobile technology has been slowly developing in the background that has the capability to record and track assaults, collect evidence and alert loved ones and law enforcement.

As VentureBeat reports, a few enterprising startups are now working on discreet wearable rape-prevention tech in the form of jewelry and hair clips. First Sign, a three-person startup based in Scottsdale, Ariz., has probably the most comprehensive product of them all at the moment. The First Sign Hair Clip, a tiny accessory you can clip on your hair or clothing, knows when something shady is happening and sends for help.

It works like this: The clip contains both a gyroscope and an accelerometer, which can detect physical assault — like slapping, punching, kicking or “aggressive shaking” — the moment it happens. Immediately, the microphone in the clip turns on, and the First Sign mobile app uses Bluetooth to access your phone’s GPS, camera and microphone to begin recording the scene for evidence. If you haven’t turned the hair clip off after 15 seconds, that information is sent to a monitoring station. If the situation seems dangerous to the person monitoring the evidence, he’ll alert nearby emergency contacts and first responders to the situation and rate the level of urgency as high, medium or low.

You’d think false alarms would be inevitable, but the company insists that they’re rare. It also notes that the device is equipped to recognize regular physical activity (like running).

The hair clip gadget is $50, and the monitoring service will cost you $5 a month. I know worried mothers who would gladly hand over that type of money to know their daughters were safely navigating the streets of a big city. If you do, too, you should direct them to First Sign’s Indiegogo page.

Perhaps the only real issue — as with most wearable tech — is that the clip is a bit drab. And don’t even get me started on the gaudy “fashion-forward” additions you can clip onto it for a few extra bucks. They look like something you’d find at the bargain bin at Claire’s. 

So we might have to wait for Artemis, a jewelry line being launched by startup Sense6. This device syncs to your phone via Bluetooth and sends geolocation alerts to family members’ phones at the touch of a button. Like First Sign, it also contains a microphone, which is turned on immediately the moment it’s activated. That audio is sent and stored as it’s recorded. Though Sense6 doesn’t  have a prototype yet, it aims to make them stylish. We’ll have to wait to see if they are. 

And then finally there’s Cuff, which is the most stylish but the least functional of the bunch. The company provides a line of nine fashionable accessories (no, really, they’re nice) to which you can clip a small black tracker. When you feel the need, you press the Cuff button, and an accompanying iOS app sends an alert to individuals or groups of your whereabouts. If they’re also Cuff users, they get the alert as a buzz on their own Cuff devices. The details, of course, are displayed on users’ smartphones.

Unfortunately, Cuff has no means to collect evidence in the event of a violent incident, but it does offer you “relevant information” to help you make the best decisions in a situation of danger. Cuff doesn’t actually expand on what that information is, but let’s hope it involves identifying safe locations nearby, rather than offering stilted advice like “Don’t make eye contact with strangers.” Still, the fact that most women I know would wear its products (which you can preorder here starting at $50) is encouraging. Perhaps high security/high fashion is not some sort of tech world Xanadu. 

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