What would you do if you walked alone outside and were suddenly attacked?
Ray Hamilton, co-founder and president of InvisaWear, asked. Common responses included dialing 9-1-1, or yelling and screaming to grab nearby attention and assistance—reactions that might be considered normal. Fellow co-founder and CEO Rajia Abdelaziz, however, proposed a more efficient method of utilizing Bluetooth technology integrated into discreet jewelry—such as rings, bracelets, and other accessories—to notify emergency services or selected contacts via your smartphone.
Beginning in late 2016, InvisaWear is a startup that focuses on developing smart earrings, watches, and other fashionable clothing items that allow for efficient and discreet notification of emergency contacts or emergency services in dire circumstances. The headquarters is located in an innovation lab in Nashua, N.H., Abdelaziz’s hometown. Although Abdelaziz wished the startup could be based in relaxing and tropical Hawaii, both Abdelaziz and Hamilton agree on the effectiveness and convenience of this location. Not only is it at the tip of their home state, it’s easily accessible to the University of Massachusetts Lowell, where Hamilton is finishing his electrical engineering degree as a senior, and where Abdelaziz earned concentrations in computer science and electrical engineering.
The technology behind the startup relies on Bluetooth Low Energy (LE). The battery lasts for a year, and connects via Bluetooth to the InvisaWear mobile application on the user’s smartphone device, functioning up to 30 feet away. Bluetooth LE is fairly new technology and the low-energy aspect allows for lower-power applications to run effectively behind the scenes.
“Imagine the cell phone as the brains with accurate GPS locations and phones connecting to a car,” Hamilton said.
On a fundamental level, Abdelaziz parallels InvisaWear’s technology and services to Apple’s Find My iPhone. Coincidentally, part of the startup’s motivation came from Abdelaziz’s experience in an Apple Store. While getting assistance at a local Apple Store, Abdelaziz put down her keys and accompanying items on the glass counter right beside her. One item was her asymmetrical and unaesthetic pepper spray—her main mechanism of defense against strangers. A stranger approached her and grabbed her key ring, questioning if the pepper spray container was an inhaler. With her defenses breached, Abdelaziz realized the uncomfortable and frightening nature of her situation.
“What would stop them from attacking [me] with my own weapon?” Abdelaziz said.
Moreover, during her undergraduate career at UMass Lowell, Abdelaziz was president of the Society of Women in Engineering. She noticed a lower attendance rate at club meetings because they were held after dark. Many students felt uncomfortable and scared walking back to their dorms or apartments. Hamilton also added that the engineering and computer science courses usually finished at night, and that many students were on edge walking back. In fact, these nighttime walks were one of the reasons that Abdelaziz originally began carrying pepper spray.
These uncomfortable experiences from friends and late engineering classes led Abdelaziz and Hamilton to start what would become InvisaWear in her senior design project. They entered the project into new competitions, and applied for UMass Lowell’s $50,000 innovation-entrepreneurship grant, DifferenceMaker. After winning the competition, the two networked and noticed the potential of their product. Over the summer, they decided to put it out on the market. Just a month ago, they launched on social media. Nonetheless, they faced numerous challenges along the way. Abdelaziz and Hamilton detailed the intricacies and technicalities of figuring out how to utilize Bluetooth LE, on top of financial difficulties and finding the right individuals to help with specific Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).
Currently, InvisaWear has a board of eight advisers with experience ranging from finance to communications—individuals committed to bringing InvisaWear to fruition. InvisaWear envisions a safer world—its mission is to give people peace of mind. In five years, Abdelaziz and Hamilton intend to incorporate a variety of styles so that everyone can wear InvisaWear’s products. They want to appeal to multiple styles and build partnerships with big name brands such as Alex and Ani.
In addition, they look to expand overseas. For instance, Abdelaziz proposed looking into developing countries, such as Egypt. She notes how their policing systems are very slow and ineffective—if an emergency situation was to arise, the arrival of first responders would be far too late and the emergency would have already occurred. Abdelaziz highlighted the importance of having family and friends to aid in emergency situations—people that will promptly come to your help.
Dating back to a 1987 article in The New York Times, 83 percent of 12-year-old children in the United States will be victimized at least once in their lifetime. Additionally, Abdelaziz referenced that one in five women face assault before graduating from college to highlight the importance of staying safe and protective measures for those you love.
With the advent of such sophisticated technology, InvisaWear hopes to join the forefront of this innovative and technological age. Soon, life-saving jewelry and fashion could become as commonplace as a can of pepper spray.
Featured Image by InvisaWear