By Stephanie Tang, May 14 2015 —
Five University of Calgary students won a business competition with an idea designed to make campus safer for women.
The product, a bracelet equipped with a button, is called the Securelet. Pressing the button once signals to Campus Security that the wearer is in trouble and provides security with GPS coordinates. Pressing it twice causes the Securelet to emit a loud, high-pitched noise, bringing attention to the wearer.
They presented the idea at the RBC Fast Pitch competition in April and won first-place, winning $90,000 to start their business.
The Feel Safe group behind the idea — Reagan Nagel, Cassidee Smith, Kira Lagadin, Kelly Weber and Renae McArthur — are second-year students at the Haskayne School of Business.
Lagadin says she remembers the U of C handing out rape whistles in her first year, but hasn’t seen anyone wear one. So the group focused on making the Securelet fashionable, while still providing the security of traditional personal safety devices.
“This is a problem that we have, and we solved our own problem by creating this idea,” Lagadin said. “We’re actually the target market, we know what we want and we know what women will and will not wear.”
The bracelet is designed to be subtle. Ideally, only the wearer will be aware that the Securelet is not a normal bracelet. The button would allow students to summon help without alerting a potential aggressor.
“You don’t have to pull out your phone and dial whatever number that might be and talk to someone,” Lagadin said. “So if you’re feeling uncomfortable, or if someone’s being aggressive towards you, you could press the button. They would have no idea and Campus Security could come help you out.”
Campus Security director Brian Sembo says that while little information is available on the concept, his team has met with the group to discuss the need for a product like the Securelet on campus. He says Campus Security is fully supportive of the initiative.
But not everyone is on board. U of C Consent Awareness and Sexual Education club president Hilary Jahelka opposes personal safety devices, including the Securelet.
“Any kind of personal safety device puts the responsibility on the potential victim rather than the potential perpetrator and that’s not something we endorse at all,” Jahelka said. “Lots of victim blaming can happen because of typical prevention methods.”
The Feel Safe group will pilot the project at the U of C, with the intent of expanding to campuses across Canada.
Lagadin says the next steps are to incorporate the company and speak with developers. They intend to develop a preliminary version of the Securelet by September. The group eventually wants to create a version of the device for men.