This is the fifth part in our series introducing you to the New York Fashion Tech Lab 2016 class. This startup has created a protective accessory that uses the power of sound for it’s users to “disrupt and repel an imminent physical threat.” We spoke with SIREN’s founder, Katharyn Alexander, who told us more about their company.
SIREN is a NYC-based fashion tech startup that has created a new class of safety devices for women: the protective accessory. Our introductory product, the SIREN Ring, is discreetly equipped with a powerful, directional 114+ dB alarm that activates instantly during an emergency, used to overwhelm and repel an imminent physical threat, and to attract attention.
What’s the inspiration behind SIREN?
The actual inspiration for SIREN was a terrifying incident that occurred a few years ago. I was walking home one night in my college town when a man suddenly approached me, very deliberately removing his pants. I immediately panicked, as I was on a steep incline and unable to run. I found myself instinctively and nervously twisting a cocktail ring from my grandmother, wishing I had some way to create a loud and unexpected noise to drive him from me, while attracting the attention of anyone nearby.
In that moment I was inspired to create a functional accessory that women could integrate into their daily lives, to ensure continuous protection and access at a moment’s’ notice. I truly believe the most effective protective resources intercept an attack RIGHT at the onset, to prevent it from escalating into violence altogether. In that instance I was fortunate, but every year hundreds of thousands of women are not so lucky.
Tell us about your patented modular technology.
Ease-of-use and accessibility were key features when creating SIREN Ring, since our patented technology is built around three core principles that self defense experts recommend. These three core principles more than double a woman’s chances of escaping or preventing rape. They are: 1) Fight back or react within the first 20 seconds, 2) Shock or surprise the assailant to throw them off guard, and 3) Create a loud noise to draw attention.
With a simple twist, the ring activates in less than two seconds, and does not require linking to smartphones. Once the alarm is triggered, it emits a piercing 114+dB alarm that the wearer can actually aim at their assailant for maximum effectiveness. This alarm is used to overwhelm, disorient, and draw attention, additionally provoking a predator’s primary fear of being interrupted. The alarm will then run for a programmed duration unless manually cancelled by the user, and can be worn for 10-12 weeks on a single charge.
How do you differentiate yourself from existing/potential players in the wearable tech market?
Existing security wearables operate as an alert, and rely on third party intervention–often taking several minutes or longer for help to arrive, at which point the act (of violence) may already be completed. Rather than positioning SIREN as wearable tech, we were inspired to create a new category of safety device that focuses on deterrence, without putting the user in additional danger. Wearables equipped with bluetooth technology to alert emergency contacts or first responders offer a wonderful secondary feature, which we may incorporate going forward, but our primary focus is offering women reliable and immediate standalone protection.
What was your greatest challenge in getting started? What was the most rewarding?
Building a powerful miniature siren that is effortless to activate under duress, with a long-lasting power supply, into the ring form factor was definitely ambitious, especially for our introductory product! Many people along the way- including potential investors and engineers, told us it was not possible to achieve the high output level we were aiming for into jewelry. After two years of R&D and working with specialized acoustic and mechanical engineers with military productization experience, the first iteration exceeded all engineering and performance expectations. This thrilled early adopters for both its ease of use and accessibility.
SIREN is the first and only accessory to achieve this output level in a user-actuated, programmable, directional device the size of a bottle cap. We are extremely thankful for the tremendous coverage, positive feedback and support we’ve received from the global fashion and tech media, top retailers, security and self defense experts, and most of all our early adopters. Right now we have sold out of our initial run with a growing wait list, and are working to bring our Gen. 2 ring to market by early 2017.
Tell us about your journey to get to the New York Fashion Tech Lab 2016 Class.
I learned about the New York Fashion Tech Lab right around the time SIREN first launched, so things were incredibly crazy. However, I immediately thought it was a specialized program perfectly suited to our needs, that could help us navigate through some of the challenges we face as a tech hardware company offering a protective accessory for women.
I’ve learned that as a startup there are a million different ways to fail, so guidance, support and actionable feedback from experienced mentors and influencers within your industry is crucial. The learning curve is steep; building a retail brand from scratch is just one piece of the equation when you’re in fashion tech. We also have to properly educate our consumer about an entirely new category of safety product, while trying to achieve that elusive balance of functionality and aesthetic appeal.
A year after we launched, SIREN applied for the Fashion Tech Lab with all of these challenges in mind, and were extremely thrilled to be chosen as finalists, even more so when we were eventually selected as a member of the 2016 cohort! Being part of the program has really accelerated our phase two development process, and has been unbelievably rewarding and validating on every conceivable level.
What’s next for SIREN?
Going forward we have simplified and improved our SIREN Ring for the mass-market by creating a (second generation) ring that will be significantly smaller, and at a lower price point. We are building our core technology into universal alarm modules to power all SIREN products going forward. We hope to expand our accessory line to include additional form factors like bracelets and unisex clip-on devices in the near future. Interest in the product has also extended to law-enforcement and first responders, who see a broad range of health and safety applications for our modular alarm technology. So I would say our long term goal is to establish SIREN as a portable security platform across several verticals, not just limited to consumer retail. But for now, more than anything, I’m just extremely grateful to have the opportunity to build a brand that makes a meaningful and empowering impact on the lives of women.
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