So it’s a bit ironic to be testing out a wearable safety device while here. But alas, deadlines await, my travel itinerary has been set, and, hey, I of all people should know that threats to safety come in unexpected places.
I’ve been playing around with my Revolar since it was sent to me in the mail a couple of weeks ago (read Wanderful’s disclosure statement here). But now’s the time to really put it to the test.
But first, what’s a Revolar?
Revolar is a wearable safety device that allows you to communicate to your loved ones when you’re in an unsafe or uncomfortable situation – all with just a click of a button. It’s a tiny little thing that you can attach to your keychain or clip on to your clothes and have on you at all times in a way that’s both discreet but accessible.
After her little sister was sexually assaulted as a teenager, co-founder and CEO Jacqueline Ros kept asking herself why there wasn’t just a magic button to let family and friends know when you were in trouble and in need of help.
So, she set out to build it herself, along with Andrea Perdomo, who shared her vision. Andrea’s family left Colombia for safety and security reasons; her grandmother was kidnapped and for months her family struggled to find her.
Though they connected over two very different circumstances, Jacqueline and Andrea knew that a solution like Revolar could have had a powerful impact.
“We went to the moon, so we thought, it can’t be this hard to build this tiny button!” Andrea joked when I spoke to her.
But apparently, it is.
These two women have spent years building Revolar – from going through tedious patent searches to developing the actual technology to building a successful business model around the device.
What originally started as a product built for assault survivors has turned into something much bigger. It’s now used by a whole host of different people – the elderly use it in case of medical emergencies. People living with a disability use it to call for help. And even those in the sharing economy (think Lyft and Uber drivers) have it on hand just in case a dangerous situation arises.
How exactly does Revolar work?
First, you download the Revolar app to connect your Revolar device to your smartphone. You’ll then set up your five contacts — presumably friends or family — who you would want to alert in case of an uncomfortable situation. It comes with easy step-by-step instructions so you never miss a beat, and only takes a few minutes to set up.
Revolar has three different levels of alerts:
Click the button once and it sends a “check-in”— a simple text to your contacts letting them know that you’ve arrived safely to your destination.
Click the button twice and it sends a “yellow alert” — which is helpful for uncomfortable situations that aren’t quite emergencies. Your contact gets a text along with your GPS location. They’re able to track your route until you disable the alert to let them know that everything’s clear. You can even set it up so that Revolar automatically calls you, giving you the opportunity to excuse yourself or simply look preoccupied in a subtle way. Networking events? Shitty dates? Avoiding creeps gawking on the street? A phone call to cut through that discomfort would be so helpful!
And finally, there’s the “red alert.” Click the button rapidly three or more times to indicate an emergency to your loved ones. Just like the yellow alert, your contacts get a text along with your GPS location so that they can track exactly where you are and where you’re headed.
The key here — and it’s something that Revolar repeatedly emphasizes — is to have a conversation with your contacts about these levels of alerts and come up with a plan for each scenario. After all, it’s really only effective and purposeful when they know what they need to do in case of an emergency.
So what’s it like in action?
Well, at home in Toronto, it works like a charm.
After a late night walking home, it’s nice to simply click a button to let my family and friends know that I’ve made it home safe. If anything, it cuts down the effort on my part of having to text to say I’m ok, which I often do already.
And yeah, I’ve definitely used the yellow alert to generate a fake phone call while walking down the street to avoid the gaze of some dude just standing and intensely staring at me (Why?!).
Oh, and did I mention that there’s a step counter too? An unrelated, but added bonus!
But here in Copenhagen, I will admit that it hasn’t been as helpful. I don’t have a working SIM or a data connection, which is necessary for sending those texts and location updates to my contacts. I often travel for very short stints and don’t find that I need a working phone. I’ll usually just connect to the wifi when I’m at my hostel or at a café.
But when you’re in an emergency, you just don’t have the time to connect, whether it’s by finding wifi or turning off airplane mode.
For someone who travels a lot, this was a key snag for me. It’s rendered my Revolar ineffective during this trip (though I have still checked in at various places with wifi, if only to rub it in my friends’ faces that I’m in Denmark).
I brought up my issue with Andrea and she readily recognized this problem. Revolar is working on workaround solutions and aims to have the device working independently, without the need for a smartphone. Doing so avoids this connectivity issue while also making the technology even more accessible to the broader population.
The team at Revolar knows that technology is not solely what will combat assault.
Meaning “to fly again,” Revolar was built to provide a practical tool and to create awareness of sexual assault. But, of course, a piece of technology is no panacea for an issue so deeply rooted in our society.
Andrea and the team at Revolar agree: “Technology is not the only solution. I see the solution as a triangle — technology, community support, and education. Without all three of these elements, you won’t be able to combat the culture.”
To address these other pieces, Revolar partners with the National Domestic Violence Hotline, donating 1% of their equity to the organization. They also work together on outreach projects to educate the public on the issue of sexual assault and ignite conversations that help to de-stigmatize the experience.
So while we’ve got a long way to go to eradicating sexual violence, in the meantime at least we’ve got a little magic button to make us feel just a bit safer.