Assaults, sexual abuse, harassment, and murder, are few of the most common human right violations in the world as defined by United Nations. An Indian scientist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has only recently changed the definition of wearable technology which was till today associated mostly with health and lifestyle. Manisha Mohan, a research scientist at MIT Lab, has developed a wearable rape sensor that is aimed at detecting sexual assault in real time easily. ‘I consider sexual assault – a disease in the society which needs an immediate solution. We don’t need bodyguards; I think we should have the ability to protect ourselves.’ stated Mohan, in an interview with PTI.
For women (and men!) the wearable rape sensor is a ‘sticker’ that can be attached to any piece of clothing. The sticker, in this case, can be trained to learn the difference between when a person is undressing by self and when they are being disrobed forcefully. In the case of the latter, the rape sensor can quickly alert people nearby as well as the victim’s friends and family for help. It is also impressive to note that the sensor detects assault even when the victim is unconscious and is unable to fight the assaulter. This can be seen as a lifesaver to those numbers of people who are bed-ridden, minors or intoxicated and cannot fight their assaulter.
A solution to combat child abuse, sexual assaults in college and work campuses, and assault against the handicapped and the elderly, the rape sensor is not much different than the already available wearable technologies. The rape sensor sticker is capable of being seamlessly integrated with a Bluetooth device of a smartphone so as to trigger loud noise during an assault or an emergency situation. The loud noise can alert people nearby while simultaneously alert the pre-defined family members of the potential victim by sending out distress signals.
How does the wearable rape sensor actually work?
The rape sensor works in two ways, the active mode and the passive mode.
In the passive mode, the wearer is assumed to be conscious. In such a scenario, the wearer in case of an emergency situation can send distress signals at the touch of a button to avoid any emerging threat. However, in the active mode, the sensor has the primary role to play. The sensor tries to detect the external environment around the wearer and creates an action plan in real time accordingly. For instance, if somebody is trying to disrobe the wearer forcefully, an automatic message will be sent to the smartphone of the wearer to confirm if the ‘act’ was consensual. But that’s not where it ends. If the wearer does not respond to the message within 30 seconds; the smart phone triggers loud deafening noise to alert the user and the nearby people. More so, if the wearer still does not shut the alarm along with a pre-defined password within the next 20 seconds, the application on the phone will automatically send distress signals to emergency contacts along with the location of the victim.
Watch Manisha Mohan’s full interview on rape sensor:
However, rape sensor is not exactly a ‘ brand new’ concept. In 2013, Yash Bhatia, a NIFT graduate built a ‘fear-sensor device’ that as its name sounds can detect fear during an assault. The device could be worn underneath clothes and could potentially detect the situation around the wearer on the parameter of fear or a flight situation. Sensing the emergency of the situation, and using Bluetooth connectivity, the device could send an emergency alert to the victim’s family members and friends along with the location of the victim.
In conclusion, like any other technology, the wearable rape sensor does not mean complete protection against assault or the general disposition of misuse. However, given the global statistics of sexual assault, it is an issue that needed an immediate and effective solution. Given that technology – especially sensors are capable of providing real-time information to people on fitness, fashion, and other aspects of life; wearable tech for the safety of women i.e. the rape sensor is at present more a need than a luxury. The question that remains to be seen is if the wearable rape sensor is going to be the solution for the millions of women struggling every day to remain safe. Only time will tell.