Aiming to raise S$50,000 (US$39,990) on StarHub’s new crowdfunding platform Crowdtivate is Malaysia-based personal safety wearable startup WaryBee. To be embedded in jewellery, its namesake flagship device will trigger an alarm when pressed in an emergency.
Everything started with programmer and father of two Ray Teng, who was worried about his children’s safety after hearing about how a teenage girl was found dead in a suitcase after going missing for two whole days.
He went on to found the company with four others: Bernie Eng, Yap Wen Jiun, Sharma Pradhaban and Taylor Ling. Teng had met Eng while working on a DiGi backend system about a few years ago, and Eng, Yap and Ling had all been part of the same CodeAndroid developer group in Malaysia. Yap then introduced the group to Pradhaban, who is an electrical and firmware engineer.
In February 2014, the firm was accepted into Malaysia-based 12-week programme 1337 Accelerator, which led them to a meeting with Starhub in Singapore.
The rest, as they say, is history.
How WaryBee works
Often, in a typical WaryBee scenario, there is the victim, the guardian, the perpetrator and the bystander. In an emergency, the victim can press the device’s panic button and notify one or more pre-selected guardians. Those with the app installed, and are within a 30-metres radius of the victim, will also be notified with the location of the victim via their phone’s WiFi or GPS signal.
The actual device, sans its jewellery covering, is 29 mm in diameter, 8.5 mm in thickness, and weighs 7.8 grams. At the moment, it uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to communicate with a smartphone, which will need to be in range of 15 meters for the trigger to work. It runs on a coin cell battery, which Eng noted should last for six months or more.
He added that the device will not work without a smartphone. He explained, “(It simplifies) the actual device allowing it to be small and very power efficient. … We can use the smartphone’s location capabilities. Devices with dedicated GPS chips only work outdoors whereas smartphones uses a combination of sensors (WiFi, GPS, accelerometer) for a more effective location tracking.”
In addition, the app is compatible with iPhone 4 or 4S running iOS 5 and above, or Android devices with BLE running on Android 4.3 and above.
However, without a smartphone, the wearable might prove to be limiting in being a personal safety device. For example, what will happen if the victim loses his or her smartphone while attacked by a robber on a motorcycle? Such a plot line is not unheard of, and can render the victim shocked. In their state of panic, would they be able to press the button in time before the robber scoots off into oblivion?
Furthermore, wouldn’t wearing jewellery give robbers more incentive to pilfer? The current WaryBee designs can come off as flashy. Eng said, “The current jewellery designs are not final.” In the future, there will be a store where more accessories can be purchased. The team is currently in talks with jewellery makers as well.
“… I guess the decision will be up to a user – obviously wearing it as a belt clip is more discrete vs. say as part of a gold necklace but we’ll let the users decide,” he added.
While Teng had started out with his children’s safety in mind, this version of WaryBee targets women. However, in some countries where it is common for a child to have a smartphone, WaryBee might just be used for that particular demographic.
To support WaryBee
WaryBee has 38 days to go. To date, it has received S$1,916 (US$1,532) from some 25 backers. If the firm does not manage to hit its campaign goal by the said deadline, it will have to refund all its backers. The device, however, may still be sold on other channels.
At the same time, if WaryBee succeeds, the firm will start delivery in February 2015.