Can wearable tech stop rape? An Indian scientist has an invention

The Intrepid is a sticker-like sensor that can detect sexual assault in real time.

 |  -minute read |   28-07-2017
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We live in strange times, in a strange land, where domestic violence, sexual abuse and even rape, are ignored and shoved under the rug to avoid uncomfortable questions. This is a land where authorities not only fail to safeguard a woman's right over her body in the ignored interiors of Bharat but prove equally ineffective when tasked with the job of making them feel safe on the busy roads of its biggest metropolitan cities.

A quick look at the latest data released by the NCRB and Delhi Police also paints a bleak picture. As per the data, cases of sexual assault across the country remain high, with India's "rape capital" Delhi registering six cases of rape on an average every day. 

From Delhi's Nirbhaya in 2012 to the unsuspecting 16-year-old schoolgirl from a hamlet near Shimla in 2017, one thing is clear: ensuring safety against sexual assault still remains the individual's duty, rather than the state's responsibility.

But worry not, an MIT researcher, Manisha Mohan, has created a device to help you with this task.

How does it work?

Called the Intrepid, this Indian scientist's invention is basically a sticker-like wearable sensor that can detect sexual assault in real time and can even detect if somebody is forcibly stripping you of your clothes. The device will then quickly inform nearby people as well as the victim’s family and emergency services of the assault. 

The Intrepid attaches to the user's clothes and connects to their phone via Bluetooth. With the help of an accompanying app, it can send an SOS to up to five contacts in case of emergency. If the piece of clothing attached to the device is taken off forcibly, the device waits for 30 seconds after which an alert goes off for 20 seconds. If there is still no response from the wearer, the listed emergency contacts are immediately notified. 

Mohan explains that the device detecting initial signs of assault can prevent women from becoming victims of sexual violence. It can additionally, with the help of the app, also record encounters when there’s no timely response from the wearer, which can be used in court in the case of legal proceedings.

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"The device operates in two modes, an active mode for instances when the victim is unconscious or cannot fight against the assaulter, for example in the case of infants, bed-ridden patients, the elderly, disabled, intoxicated people, and the passive mode where the victim can self-actuate the safety mechanism."

The device's design, Mohan claims, was developed after taking inputs from multiple sexual assault survivors – 338 online participants, 67 volunteers and 20 users who helped her team understand the real world feasibility of the Intrepid. 

Will it be of any help? 

With crimes against women on the rise, and women effectively being left with no choice but to stay indoors after dark, a device like Intrepid can not only help by improving response time in cases of sexual assault but more importantly, it can make women feel safer when stepping out on the streets. 

The device, as Mohan explains, can also be used to combat child sexual abuse, college campus assault and abuse of the elderly and disabled.

Also read: How films have influenced Tamil Nadu to embrace Jallikattu

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