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Wearable Tech

This startup has a smart ring designed to keep you safe

Kickstarter project Nimb is the latest in a niche category of wearable tech devoted to personal safety.

Walking alone through a parking garage or down a side street, you feel uneasy. You wonder how you'd signal for help if you were truly in danger.

You're not alone.

One in five women is sexually assaulted before graduating from college, said Anna Voremberg, managing director of End Rape on Campus. And it's not just young women who worry about harm coming their way. Thirty-seven percent of all Americans feel unsafe when they walk alone at night, even near their homes, according to a Gallup poll.

Enter Nimb, a wearables startup that hopes to bring a little peace of mind. Its ring can contact friends, family and emergency services when you need help, and you can use it even if both hands are restricted.

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Nimb's smart ring can serve as a panic button too.

Nimb

Nimb's ring is one of an array of products intended to help keep you safe by enabling you to send out a distress signal. It's a Good Samaritan twist on the burgeoning market for smart wearable products.

"We ran the pre-launch campaign on Facebook for three weeks and received tremendous feedback. People all over the world said that they want to lead safer lives," said Kathy Roma, a spokeswoman for Nimb. "They really want to feel protected, to feel that someone will always have their back when they are in trouble."

The Los Altos, California-based company started marketing its safety-focused ring on crowd-funding site Kickstarter earlier this month. The 10-person executive team hit its goal of $50,000 in less than 18 hours after starting the campaign and has raised more than $154,000 (about £ 115,440 UK, or AU$ 209,170) so far.

How it works

When in danger, a wearer of the Nimb ring presses a panic button for three seconds to alert a group of people the wearer has chosen. The ring pairs with the person's phone to send the GPS location to those contacts. If you ever stray too far from your phone for Nimb to sync, the ring, which has a two-week battery life, will vibrate to notify you. The Nimb app also allows you to send out a distress signal from your phone if you aren't wearing your ring.

But some sexual assault awareness activists aren't convinced these personal safety wearables are the answer.

"I'm very skeptical," Voremberg said about these types of devices. "It's really discounting lots and lots of people being assaulted by an intimate partner and good friends of theirs."

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The Nimb team hopes to help out by starting a community of safety. "Our mission is not only to equip people with devices but to bring the idea of collaboration and coming forward with a helping hand," said Roma.

The community aspect comes through the ability to alert other Nimb wearers in the area, giving them a chance to assist you. You can turn off that function if you prefer not to get alerts from random people.

Nimb isn't alone in tapping wearables to try to help people who might find themselves in peril. There is, for instance, Wearsafe, a water-resistant tag with a button you can press to call for help, and Safelet, a metal bracelet that lets you send a signal to friends when you're in danger. Other wearables with similar features include Stiletto, Revolar and Roar. The next iteration of the Apple Watch software, meanwhile, will include an option to hold down a side button to quickly call for help and share your GPS location.

Roma thinks the Nimb ring will stand out from the crowd for its convenience and design. "We hope that people will wear it every day no matter what," she said, "without feeling like it compromises their style."