What’s so important about two Carnegie Mellon graduates and their small startup Lifeshel? For starters, they’re developing technology that has the potential to alter the fate of assault victims.
Lifeshel‘s first product, which will debut in 2015, is a smartphone case and app called Whistl. The case fits onto the user’s phone and has buttons on it that activate a 120 decibels alarm (sound that’s the equivalent of sitting in the front row seat at a rock concert) and contact law enforcement and emergency contacts when pressed. Accompanying the alarm is an LED strobe light meant to disorient the attack and alert help in the area. The app also takes a video and audio recording of the incident to prevent later confusion and discrepancies.
The app uses Bluetooth technology that provides location information to law-enforcement and emergency contacts (that have been programmed in), according to The Atlantic.
To safeguard against an attacker disabling it, a personalized security gesture or ID combination is needed.
Post-college, co-founders Jayon Wang and Alan Fu developed Whistl after seeing the effects of assault on their college campus, namely on their friend Lean Yingling who was attacked while running.
“[We] “knew people on campus who had been sexually assaulted, whose cases were never properly resolved because there was no evidence,” Wang tells The Atlantic. “There was no concrete data that showed when something happened and how it happened.”
Their device could change all that. So far, Lifeshel conducted a successful 20-unit trial at Carnegie Mellon, which was greeted with positive feedback from the participants.
Although there’s still much change that needs to happen in regards to the cultural mindset of sexual assault, Whistl is a step in the right direction.