It all started back in May 2015, on a fairly typical Tuesday. Except it was a little more special, because it was my birthday. My mother was out running errands late morning because Tuesday is the day when grocery stores typically restock, so the produce is the freshest. It also is the slowest days for most stores, making it the ideal day to run errands.
She's leaving the grocery store with hands full of grocery bags. There are two punks loitering at the entrance asking for spare change. She refuses because her hands are full. My mother is 4'11"; she can barely what's in front of her, even in heels. In less than 30 seconds, they follow her into the parking lot, one grabs her purse from her shoulder from behind and pulls her to the ground ( her head hits the pavement) , the other kicks her in the ribs and they both run off with the purse. This is recorded on a low resolution security camera faces were unrecognizable with very obvious blind spots near the alley.
Remember its errand day, that includes trips to the bank. So that purse has everything, bank information, other account information, credit cards, ID, checks from other customers/payments, cash-- everything. The only thing that was stolen were keys; they fell out so she could drive home.
Unfortunately, this is a very common experience for many Vietnamese women in the nail industry. We are often thought of easy targets due to access to cash flow, small stature, and limited English proficiency (difficulty communicating with police).
Most of my work is service oriented, especially towards helping women and disadvantaged persons. So I wanted to create something that would alleviate this problem so that it doesn't keep happening and empower women to go out with a sense of security of their possessions. I wanted to create a comprehensive product that had the following components to ensure the most security for anyone valuables.
Slash-resistant design- deters pickpocket slash and go method and creates a sturdy structure to hold many items.
Biometric operated lock mechanism- ensures that only the user has access to their valuables
Sound Grenade Alarm system - first line of defense for when the user feels threatened
GPS tracking- to retrieve any stolen item when the thief tosses the item way
Easy release straps- to prevent broken necks and collarbones in the event the purse is grabbed.
Customizable exterior to accommodate anyone’s style and wardrobe
This lead me to create Colette. Our first prototype is crossbody purse and currently being built. It allows for hands free lifestyle. We believe technology shouldn’t be an extra new thing to buy that will need to replaced in the next season but something that is already integrated into your life and is reliable year after year.
How we built it
Somethings are a bit proprietary, fabric specifically. Basically the purse runs on biometric scanner that is hooked to a lock and controlled with a microcontroller. GPS chip is also part of the hardware and that runs on a cell network. All the electronics are embedded in the purse
Challenges we ran into
One of the challenges we face is creating reliable GPS signal with high acuity (under 100ft) for cheap.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We became a start up company in July 2017 with full rights to our IP. We are in process of turning prototype to product.
What we learned
Strong team is the foundation of all work. This project thrives on creative wierd people. Things have to be janky first and for a while before they are good
What's next for Colette
500 units of purses to test out and play with