These Wearable Tech Devices Are Helping Combat Street Harassment
If wearables like FitBit track our steps and Apple Watch acts as an extension of our iPhones to help keep us organized, what stands at the intersection of technology and safety? A number of tech-preneurs are asking this, too, and responding to social and political conversations surrounding stories of street and sexual harassment with innovative devices that, though not foolproof, are adept at making us feel protected.
RunLites gloves, Nimb rings and the Athena clip-on are three products that look like accessories but allow people to integrate safety-oriented tech into their wardrobes. And the capabilities of these devices are quite diverse: RunLites gloves set off built-in lights that allow early-morning and late-night runners to see or be seen; with a press of Nimb’s sleek ring, 9-1-1 is quietly called and location sharing is activated between family, friends and potential first responders (nearby Nimb users also get alerted); and Athena is a round clip-on accessory that can be synced (when pressed) with smartphones to alert pre-selected contacts with either a silent alert or a panic alarm that rings louder than 95 decibels.
“Fear or insecurity about safety automatically diminishes, and our focus is shifted because we are biologically responding to whatever the feared stimulus is.”
“We’ve had all kinds of uses for Athena that we never anticipated,” says Yasmine Mustafa, co-founder and CEO of ROAR for Good, which makes the product. “[We’ve heard of] real estate agents feeling more empowered at work, elderly folks maintaining their independence, parents sending their young teenagers to the mall or market for the first time with Athena, and survivors of violence who ‘reclaimed their power’ by using the device to feel safe returning to activities they paused due to fear,” she adds. “Athena provides peace of mind.”
It’s unlikely that such devices will make anyone feel invincible, says Dr. Ayanna Abrams, a clinical psychologist, and yet they work. “Wearable tech does have an impact on how safe and in control we feel during these experiences, which can allow us to be more present in whatever the activity is. Fear or insecurity about safety automatically diminishes, and our focus is shifted because we are biologically responding to whatever the feared stimulus is,” she says. “If that can be diffused in any way by an increased sense of power in the scenario, our thoughts and energy can be directed at what we want to enjoy in the moment.”