A “double click” away to safety

The street was deserted and lonely with lamp posts serving as the only source of light. Walking as fast as she could and constantly watching her back, Sneha (name changed) couldn’t fathom her friend’s timing. “Ah, there you are,” he exclaimed as soon as she arrived at the institute’s research block.

She had some misunderstandings to sort and she couldn’t wait to get it out of the way. Even before she could speak a word, he moved close enough to hear her breathing escalate instantly. “What are you doing?” she nearly yelled taking a few steps behind. “Hey, it’s okay,” he smiled, even as he attempted to touch her inappropriately.

That was it. She nearly spat on his face and stormed out of the building fighting back tears that rushed down her face. The moment he sprinted down the stairs, she ran – she ran for her life.

When you observe close enough, the setting looks familiar, doesn’t it? It is what you and I would have wanted. It was getting late and the street was deserted. Couldn’t Sneha have had a friend accompany her? How well did she know this guy? Why would she meet him at a deserted block? All these questions arrive at one conclusion – it was all Sneha’s fault; she should have been more careful.

Before we critic the situation any further, let me tell you that it wasn’t dark and lonely. In fact, it was broad daylight and the street was buzzing with people around. The block may have been a little deserted, but Sneha only went there to sort things out with her best friend —  the guy whom she’d known for nearly seven years; the guy with whom she’d confided and trusted all her secrets; they guy who had observed her every move; the guy whom I had dated for a year.

There’s no point debating what could or couldn’t have gone wrong and who else could have been victim to this crime. The fact that I could have been her a few years ago sends chills down my spine. But one thing’s certain – it has become extremely difficult to trust anybody today.

Chirag Jagtiani seems to have thought the same thing when he designed an application called spotnsave for personal security. “None of us can go with the attitude ‘I am safe, don’t worry, I know this person’ any more. If you look at most of the crimes that have happened, the person involved would have been a confidant,” he says.

With so many applications in the market all aimed at women’s safety, spotnsave was launched in December 2013. It seems to me that Chirag thought of it in the wake of all the gang rapes. “No, actually,” he clarifies. “Way back in 2005, a friend I knew was kidnapped while travelling overseas. That changed my life. I’ve wanted to build a security device ever since. All of us need it. My product is a wearable device targeted at anybody who is vulnerable to crimes like these – it could be kids, senior citizens’, students, and women. Depending on the situation, it could even be me.”

The idea occurred to him when he was with Accenture working for a global pacemaker device. “That’s when it struck me – if a heart can have a Bluetooth device, why couldn’t a wrist have the same?” he explains. With a team of four members, the plan was to make something economical that everyone could buy and use.

“The application lets you keep in touch with your family, friends, and loved ones at all times. It tracks your movement and sends location information to your guardian angel network. It also displays your current location on Google maps,” he says.

Even before he finishes, all too soon, I ask him how it spots people in danger. How am I supposed to operate the device? “All you need to do is “double click” the power button on your smartphone and an SOS is sent out to your guardian angel network with your location via SMS,” he points out.

The advantage in this case is the fact that I wouldn’t have to look for my phone in an emergency.

With the bracelet and the pendant costing Rs.1800, does Chirag see other applications, especially the ones that are free, as a threat? “Not really. It is the only emergency application that connects to a wearable device. I am not saying that spotnsave is the answer to all your security questions, but it will give you enough time to inform your loved ones or the cops, because many times that is not even possible,” he says.

On the brighter side, Chirag has had a phenomenal response with NDTV featuring the wristband and the campaign going up on Indiegogo. “Crowdfunding has helped me understand whether the product is going to be accepted in your market or not,” he explains.

The man behind this SOS application, stays in Hong Kong, and sells his products on the basis of word-of-mouth. He intends to take security to the next level building more features and patenting them.

Although he does not believe in giving or taking free advice, upon my insistence, he urges up-and-coming entrepreneurs to stay calm and focused. “If you believe in your product, get your team right, and go for it. It always works having the ball in your court,” he declares.

That gets me thinking that the next time someone touches you inappropriately or grabs you out of the blue, as much as you would love to knock the person dead, it would also make sense to “double click” the button on your bracelet and fetch help.

What do you think?

Give the spotnsave video a dekko here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auuWD8lu1_s

Watch this space for more such stories, where synergies between domains have solved issues that are challenges in our everyday lives.