When Anu Jain was raising her daughter, she was worried.
Jain had many concerns about the dangerous world her daughter was heading into, and didn't feel comfortable with her loved one heading into it alone. Violence against women runs rampant across the world, with one-third of women experiencing physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives, according to the World Health Organization.
The Seattle-based philanthropist, a trustee on the board of the XPrize Foundation, felt there needed to be a better way.
"I thought, why hasn't anybody come up with an immediate solution for providing help?" she said. "Let's use technology to find something that will help women today."
She and Naveen Jain, co-founders of InfoSpace, in 2016 launched a $1 million search, a competition for any inventor who could create a device that women can use to send an emergency alert, even without access to their phones. The alert needed to be sent automatically, within 90 seconds, work without internet or phone signals, and cost less than $40 a year.
The competition kicked off in New Delhi, where, as a 2013 survey revealed, 95 percent of women didn't feel safe from sexual violence and three in four women had experienced an attack.
"Women's safety is not just a Third World problem; we face it every day in our own country and on our college campuses," Naveen said. "It's not a red state problem or a blue state problem, but a national problem."
Leaf Wearables, a team from New Delhi, won the $1 million prize, in a contest that featured 85 teams from across 18 countries.
Its winning device is the Safer Pro, a small chip that can be put into any piece of jewelry or device with an emergency alert button. When you press the button, it automatically starts recording and sends audio and location details, via 2G mesh network, to emergency responders and police.
The device is designed to work in regions with low reception, and lasts up to a week before it needs charging.
While testing the Safer Pro, Jain said, the team went on trains, buses and buildings across Mumbai to make sure the device worked, even in extreme conditions. The product is already available in India, and so far about 20,000 people are using it.
With the prize money, the company hopes to scale up and spread the smart jewelry around the world, for about $35 apiece.
"We have been working tirelessly to solve the problem of safety using technology," said Manik Mehta, team leader at Leaf Wearables. "It has been our mission to make 1 billion families safer."
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