At the Disrupt NY hackathon this year the winning hack was a live-streaming app called Witness whose team’s pitch was a desire to be the panic button for the mobile age. But what about sticky situations where you don’t have time to fumble with your phone and fire up an app? That’s where Connecticut-based startup Wearsafe Labs is hoping to step in, with a hardware panic button also updated for the app era. So there’s a companion app where your chosen contacts are brought together into a group chat when you push the Wearsafe panic button so they can co-ordinate what help you might need. The startup is currently running a Kickstarter campaign aiming turn what’s a prototype at this stage into a shipping product, with a shipping schedule starting from this September. At the time of writing they’ve passed their $75,000 funding goal with just over a week left on the clock. The target market for the device is twofold, say co-founders David Benoit and Phill Giancarlo: firstly U.S. college and university students, who may be concerned of the risk of sexual assault; and secondly the active lifestyle consumer market, where individuals might be engaged in high risk solitary activities such as cycling, hiking and skiing and want the reassurance they can summon help if needed. (Although Wearsafe’s tag does not automate alerts based on judging whether the user has crashed or fallen — so is less specialist than a device like BikeTag.) The Wearsafe system has two components: a hardware tag that can be worn on the person and which links to their smartphone via Bluetooth Low Energy — enabling the system to broadcast the button presser’s location (or, specifically, the location of their phone as this utilizes the GPS in their phone) to their chosen network of contacts. And a companion app where those contacts are able to discuss the unfolding situation and view information being broadcast from the user’s phone. As well as the location of the user’s phone, the Wearsafe app also streams audio so the alerted people can listen to what’s going on in the vicinity of the user to help them determine what type of emergency is taking place, and whether they should call 911 immediately or stage some other kind of intervention. Chosen contacts are alerted when help is needed via text, email and push notification. The user needs to have their phone on or near them for the alerts to work, and be connected to either Wi-Fi or a cell network. The tag is powered by a user replaceable coin battery which the founders say should last for up to six months. Unlike some of the tracking products designed for parents to keep tabs on their kids, Wearsafe’s hardware does not continually track the user’s location — but only sends info to their pre-selected contacts when the button is pressed. “Wearsafe gives the user full control over who to engage and when they are notified. This is not their friends constantly checking in on their location — no one has any information until the user presses the button to alert them. This is encouraging for the younger market who is wary of being tracked without their knowledge,” notes Benoit. What development work is left to do at this stage? “We have already completed many rounds of prototypes and testing on the devices and software,” say the co-founders. “We are finalizing our iOS version and beginning work on the Android version. The devices will begin production later this month, and we will begin shipping in September. We will be sending the iOS version to Apple in September and expect approval before October. We are expecting to release the Android version later this fall. We will begin releasing enabling software for a range of smartwatches this fall as well.” Although initially building their own hardware tag to act as the connected panic button, ultimately, the team is aiming to create “a personal safety platform” — supporting a range of their own and third party Bluetooth Low Energy devices so that users can choose their method of choice for summoning aid. So if you want it to be your BLE smart ring, presumably that could be supported in future. “Using these small and discrete devices allows our users to send an alert without necessarily drawing attention to the fact that they have done so. Unlike software-only apps which require the user to directly interact with their phone, a Wearsafe user can be up to 200 ft from their phone and still be able to request aid,” adds Giancarlo. Wearsafe’s business model requires users sign up for a $4.99 monthly subscription service, as well as (initially) buying the hardware tag. Tags are being offered to Kickstarter backers with bundled free lifetime subscription — currently starting at $40.