New Prize Awards $1 Million to Create a Safer World for Women

The team from Leaf Wearables, winner of the $1 million prize in the Anu and Naveen Jain Women’s Safety competition. The prize was facilitated by XPRIZE, a new platform that specializes in “designing and implementing innovative competition models to solve the world’s grandest challenges.” (Photo courtesy of XPRIZE.)

Finding new ways for women to be safe in the community is still a high priority for feminist philanthropists everywhere. Now, with a new competition funded by  Anu and Naveen Jain, more tools will be available for women to access emergency response.

The Anu and Naveen Jain Women’s Safety XPRIZE recently announced the winner of its $1 million competition:  an Indian company called Leaf Wearables, which created a new device for triggering emergency response. The low-cost device, called SAFER, is aimed at making as many as one billion families safer.

“Safety is a fundamental human right and should not be considered a luxury for women,” said Anu Jain, who, along with her husband Naveen is co-founder of InfoSpace and is a Community Relations leader at Viome. The focus of much of Anu Jain’s philanthropy is centered on empowering women and girls. “With so many advances in innovation and technology today, it was unacceptable to us that we didn’t have a solution to help curb this sexual assault pandemic.”

Statistics about the high levels of harassment women face in India are startling. As many as 92% of women in New Delhi report experiencing some form of violence in public spaces over the course of their lives.

“We have been working tirelessly to solve the problem of safety using technology,” said Leaf Wearables team leader Manik Mehta. Leaf Wearables comes to the prize with the advantage of having significant market experience and success with an early version of SAFER that has aleady sold thousands of units in Indian markets.

“Women’s safety is not just a third world problem; we face it every day in our own country and on our college campuses. It’s not a red state problem or a blue state problem but a national problem,” said Naveen Jain, co-founder of the Women’s Safety XPRIZE and board member for XPRIZE. Naveen is the founder of multiple tech companies including Moon Express, Viome, Bluedot, TalentWise, Intelius and InfoSpace.

The competition launched in October of 2016. Eighty-five initial teams engaged in the competition, coming from 18 countries worldwide including the United States, India, Switzerland, Canada, Spain, Germany, China and United Arab Emirates. Prototypes for the competition were submitted in April of this year, and the five finalist for the prize engaged in a process of testing their solutions to see how the devices would function in diverse environments including high rise office buildings, college campuses, in public transit, and at home. Importantly, all of these devices are designed to work in areas where no cellular connection is available.

XPRIZE is a platform that specializes in helping nonprofits conduct competitions aimed at solving big world problems. Active competitions include the the $15M Global Learning XPRIZE, the $7M Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE, the $7M Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE, and the $5M IBM Watson AI XPRIZE.

From the Prize Announcement:

GRAND PRIZE WINNER ($1M USD)

  • SAFER Pro from Leaf Wearables (New Delhi, India) – Led by Manik Mehta, a smart safety device that sends emergency alerts with location details to a users’ guardians when they sense danger. SAFER Pro is a small chip that can ultimately be put into any device or jewelry with a discreet emergency alert button. When the alert is received, it additionally lets you record audio from the time of the alert.

ADDITIONAL FINALISTS

  • Artemis (Lausanne, Switzerland) – Led by Dr. Nicee Srivastava, Artemis is developing a device that can be used to trigger an alert not just by a gesture, but also by seamlessly tracking emotional threat levels.
  • Nimb & SafeTrek (Los Altos, CA and St. Louis, MO, United States) – Led by Leo Bereschanskiy and Nick Droege, Nimb collaborates with SafeTrek to provide their customers an option to call for professional emergency services with just a touch of the thumb. The company was founded in response to rising concerns about safety on and off campus. Both teams work together to make the world a safer place.
  • Saffron (Bellevue, WA, United States; Tsinghua, China) – Led by Nicholas Becker, Saffron is a collaboration between the University of Washington and Tsinghua University through the Global Innovation eXchange (GIX), focused on developing wearable sensors and machine learning algorithms to create inconspicuous technologies that improve the safety and well-being of women around the world.
  • Soterra (Bethlehem, PA, United States) – Led by Lena McDonnell, Soterra used a combination of global positioning services, cellular data and bluetooth to build a versatile, reliable and affordable network to connect women to emergency support systems.

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Author: Kiersten Marek

Kiersten Marek, LICSW, is the founder of Philanthropy Women. She practices clinical social work in Cranston, Rhode Island, and writes about how women donors and their allies are advancing social change.

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