When tech entrepreneurs Anu and Naveen Jain began the Women’s Safety XPrize in 2016, they had a very focused goal for the competition. Teams from around the world would work to create devices that the average woman could carry that would be both inconspicuous and have the ability to create an emergency alarm if the user was in danger. The final product also had to be affordable, with a price that did not exceed $40.
The Jains made their name and fortune in the tech world by founding a series of companies that included InfoSpace, Intelius, and Inome. In interviews, Anu Jain has said that she wants the tech world to do more to address gender violence.
“The goal is to change the global mindset over women’s safety issues,” Anu Jain told CNBC last week. “For generations, women’s safety has been an issue no one successfully addressed, yet it’s a stepping-stone to ensuring gender equality. It’s time to use technology to solve this problem. We need to develop response networks which do not exist in much of the world.”
In order to do that the XPrize judges examined prototypes from 85 teams that hailed from 18 countries. The five finalists were then put through vigorous testing that included seeing how the devices would work in environments that included high-rise office buildings, public transit, and college campuses.
Last Thursday, the competition announced its winner during a ceremony at the United Nations. The New Delhi-based company Leaf Wearables received the $1 million prize for its creation, which is called the Safer Pro. The Safer Pro is a chip that, due to its small size, allows users to conceal it in their jewelry or other items. Users who find themselves in unsafe situations can push a button to send a signal that would alert a team of community responders who can then dispatch help.
“We have been working tirelessly to solve the problem of safety using technology. It has been our mission to make one billion families safer,” Manik Mehta of Leaf Wearables said in a statement. “The Anu & Naveen Jain Women’s Safety XPrize gave us the incentive and focus to continue to work toward our mission and make the world a safer place to live, learn and work.”
All five of the finalist prototypes could work in areas with little or no cell reception. Entries submitted to the competition included items like smart jewelry and technology that could detect movements like hand gestures from the users.
For more coverage on gender issues in India, please read ‘India and China’s ‘Sons First’ Mentality has Caught Up With Them.’