A quiet stroll down the street might just lead to your untimely death. That charming park? The future crime scene, perhaps, of your grisly assault. Even a quick jog at dusk might make you a moving target. Alas, there’s no magic bullet to stop your paranoia. But there’s a souped-up guardian gizmo that might come in handy with the press of a button.
Among a hodgepodge of vibrating teddy bears and “smart” cat food bowls at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Occly is one of the unassuming devices that quietly stand out from the pack. Sure, it looks downright dowdy next to flashier gizmos such as VR-ready laptops or shiny 4K TV screens, but consider this palm-size device your own personal Batphone.
Occly, which is planned to be available in April for $199, connects to your smartphone and features four cameras to record your surroundings, along with ear-piercing sirens loud enough to wake up your neighbors, a mic to capture sounds and, most important, a lifeline to a 24/7 emergency-response center. Usually worn on the body, Occly even sports certain sensors that will trigger an alarm on impact. Bam! (Sorry, false alarm.) The end goal is to provide peace of mind and “stop assault before it happens,” says Occly’s founder, Nimish Adhvaryu, who flexes his nerd-size biceps rather ironically.
A number of personal-safety wearables are making their way onto store shelves, all aimed at tackling the traumatizing threats of assault and rape. Bracelets such as Safelet and key rings like Safeti will text friends or family with your GPS coordinates when you are in danger and hit a discrete panic button. Already, an SOS feature in the Apple Watch will let you instantly call the police for help and send your location by holding down a side button. Meanwhile, Nimb, Cuff and Revolar all boast similar schemes inside the broader wearables market, which is set to grow from $29 billion this year to $34 billion in 2020, according to market research firm CCS Insight. “It’s all about buying yourself time to get out of a dangerous situation,” says Kathleen Baty, an expert on personal safety and self-defense.
Yet some safety wearables, including Occly, could also work against you, lulling you into a false sense of security, and perhaps make certain people more likely to take risks — whether by taking a shortcut down a shady street or going for a run in a seedy area. Indeed, anyone could still be the victim of crime, Baty notes. She would know — Baty was once almost kidnapped at gunpoint and still bears the emotional scars. “Living in denial is not an option,” she says. “You wouldn’t step in front of a bullet because you have a bulletproof vest.”
Even so, as a solo traveler and an evening jogger, I wouldn’t mind trading in my lucky pendant for something that might actually save my life.